The master of imagination returns with a ukulele-driven album set to mark the upcoming birth-date of his daughter. This is something completely different yet again. These compositions combine organic brightness and layers upon layers of colour and delicate detail, to create something that is all at once ambient and lightly energizing. The opener, included below, starts things off in a fairly soothing way. Seafarer follows with much more of a clear-cut, melodic story line. What I like about this is the use of the ukulele as a multi-functional instrument – these melodic solos, as it were, aren’t often showcased in ukulele performances. It makes the project quite stylish in a gentle and easily accessible way.
As you progress, this underlying sense of joy and possibility that is inherent in much of John Clark’s work really goes from strength to strength. There are plenty of minutes of hypnotic rhythm, as well as a touch of European flair, and many, many freely meandering riffs that carry the story line as if you and it are one and the same; on the back of a surf board, riding the wave. The ocean is consistently present in the backdrop, so on many occasions the music feels like a live acoustic performance down at the beach. There’s also a distinct level of balance in how the project has been arranged, certain spacious, acoustic moments of calm are followed by more vibrant, hyperactive moments of swift movement – Captain Octopus being the perfect example of the latter.
As uplifting and positively themed as the music is, it’s worth taking a step back to really appreciate the musicianship. The songs in themselves seem like free-flowing explorations of story-lines in some ways, crafted on the spot in the way that jazz often is. However, there’s a definite sense of theme or a thread during each piece – certain riffs or moments repeat and return to centre stage to keep it all relevant.
MoonOcean as a project tells the story of a mermaid named Cora who saves a sailor from the sirens when he crashes. To consider or bear this in mind as you listen helps accompany the album with appropriate imagery and ideas. The ukulele sound fits this aura well, as does the lightness of the beat, the organic and free nature of the surrounding instrumentation – it’s all been thoughtfully and skilfully set-up so that you can really lose yourself in the purity of the experience.
Aquatic Dreams offers up a notably mellow moment of smooth, soothing rhythmic and reflection. There seems to be a slightly more emotional essence here, maybe a quiet consideration of events. It fits well at this point within the project and is a personal highlight for the way the chord progression directs your thoughts and your mood, almost like a small roller-coaster – taking you through these unavoidable ups and downs with as little intensity as possible. Under The Maritime Moon follows on beautifully and keeps the artistry and thoughtfulness ever-present.
Golden Pontoon is another personal highlight, though it’s less of an atmospheric piece, more of a driven and focused expression of thoughts and notes – you follow this one solo throughout the entire few minutes, as it rises and cascades, its speed changing intermittently, the waves continuing to crash right behind it. This one is something of a mini-masterpiece in fact, really entrancing to witness.
Later on, Siren Coven takes things in a totally different direction, surrounding you in atmospheric void, offering up something of an unsettling moment of vastness – or perhaps the perfect open arena within which to properly look around and consider what has come to pass. As the music softly begins, after a minute or so has passed, it’s a simple melody that suits the mood of the moment really well. Seaweed lightens the mood with manic possibility once again. Floods follows and introduces something a Celtic-folk vibe, accompanied eventually by a touch of strings – the likes of which are one of many intricate details that really help make this project special.
Perfectly in keeping with the mood of the progression through the songs, Celtic Sea Serpent steps up afterwards and raises the energy brilliantly. Again, the detail is superb, even down to the spaces, the pauses between instrumental moments of vibrancy. It all adds to the cinematic strength of the project. Harpies Reel fires into place flawlessly. Hammerhead changes the mood again, the title and the feel of the audio work in unison to create a moment of slight unease.
Vikings Lullaby brings a touch of heaviness and electronic intensity as the penultimate track on the album. It’s a brief experience, again well placed and quite addictive to listen to. The pace and the notes chosen are mesmerising. Then the title track brings things to a close with delicacy, joy, and an overall feeling of hopefulness among sounds of the natural world. This album is really the perfect kind of gift for something as special as a new life. These songs are enjoyable and welcoming to all, the final track is beautiful and really sees things to a satisfying finish, as well as reminding you of the musicianship and brightness that has been the bulk of the collection.
Take home the accompanying book for MoonOcean via Amazon. Find & follow John Clark on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Visit his Website for more information. The original artwork for the album was created by Terra Jewel Walker at Fluid Druid Artifacts.