NEWMOON – Temporary Light

  1. Newmoon strike a perfect balance between atmospheric riffs and blankets of noise on their third album ‘Temporary Light’. The Belgian band have long been a part of the underground shoegaze scene, but it can be argued that it’s taken them a while to hone their art, and create something truly worthy of the genre’s mid 90s peak. This record is exactly that. This is a love letter to the stylistic past of a world driven by distortion pedals and hazy, fuzzed out soundscapes, yet at the same time, a set of tracks that sounds wholly relevant in the era in which it was created. If not quite a “genre classic” in the truest sense, it’s certainly the kind of record that those deeply into one of rock’s more malleable genres can take to their hearts.

Opening the album, there’s something at the heart of the very mechanical ‘Eternal Fall’ that calls back to The Cure’s abrasive ‘Pornography’ album. Newmoon make the cold, goth-tinged riffs their own by not only layering the guitar sound with dream pop jangling that owes more to a very different alternative sound, but underscoring the potential abrasiveness with a bassline that’s pleasingly fluid. The slightly busier rhythm allows for a musical backdrop that’s hugely expansive, but eventually very melodic. By the time an echoing vocal takes centre stage, this actually sounds nothing like the early Cure at all, but more like a hybrid of an old 4AD band and the more contemporary takes on shoegaze and dream pop by Irish musician Keeley. There’s potentially a great song trying to escape from the layers of sound but, ultimately, this becomes all about Newmoon’s abilities to layer up the guitars in such a way that the sound becomes almost everything. Nevertheless, it’s an encompassing noise that has an other-worldly and blissed out quality that, by the close of these six minutes, has a timeless appeal.

Taking a similarly layered sound that makes the best of the studio environs and applying that to a slower groove, ‘Liminal People’ shares a siren-like lead guitar over a wall of distortion, before exploring a dream-like indie rock space where the dream pop and shoegaze hybrid occasionally feels reminiscent of much missed Irish band Elastic Sleep, despite featuring a very different vocal. The way louder elements are used to create a bridge between the verses feels like a direct throwback to the 90s, but at the same time, this is a track that, thanks to a finely crafted bassline and the lead guitars to creating something even more cinematic feels entirely natural in the present, whilst ‘Still’ applies a higher bass tone and droning melodies in a way that feels like the ultimate tribute to the dark side of the late 80s. A mournful vocal sounds like the direct descendent of great goth-pop, and the chiming guitars cutting through a swirling sound on the chorus draw more from the domain of early Ride than the more abrasive Jesus and Mary Chain or My Bloody Valentine. For those who’ve yet to hear Newmoon, this would provide the perfect entry point, since its broader melodies convey far more of a nostalgic quality, yet still gives a clear idea of the band’s own talents.

An immediate highlight, ‘Through The Glass’ introduces itself via a very melodic guitar riff, exploring cold, shimmering tones that are closer to dream pop than shoegaze. With the addition of a warm bass, the arrangement takes in a very slight goth influence, but manages to go deeper into dream pop, thanks to a heavily filtered, ethereal vocal. This hazy indie sound is just perfect, and when the expected distortion finally rears its head, the listener has already had plenty of time to familiarise themselves with a superb melody. With this in mind, the distortion never really takes anything away; it adds an extra colourant. Granted, that can feel abrasive, but it works, and once it falls away, the indie based sounds feel much fuller than before. With a push and pull between the two musical camps, the band show a brilliant light and shade, as well as an easy confidence, and by the by the time a closing lead guitar adds a layer of jangling lead sounds and extra noise, the dark, swooning sounds convey the perfect tribute to the genre’s founders. It could even be claimed that this is better than the ‘Loveless’ era My Bloody Valentine, as Newmoon have remembered that actual songs are as vital as a “pure sound”.

The much crashier ‘Sense of Longing’ sounds far more like MBV at first, thanks to its louder drum sound, slightly busier riffs and a layer of distortion that’s so loud in places that it gives the feeling that the audio experience is gradually being broken. Once this finally subsides, however, you’ll find more of Newmoon’s more melodic gifts, and in this case, the coming together of solid basslines and echoing guitar work forms the basis of a perfect homage to the early 90s. More so than elsewhere on the album, the vocals are so heavily filtered, it sometimes feels as if they’re bleeding through from a different recording, but – always with a great ear for melody – Newmoon twist their uglier intents into something strangely beautiful once the track latches onto moments of clean guitar exploring a descending riff. The more tuneful aspects sound like a distant cousin of Sweden’s Spielbergs (a band thought to be the saviours of the Euro shoegaze scene a decade prior to this), whilst the more extreme end of those riffs assault the listener with a near impenetrable wall of sound. In capturing both ends of the Newmoon musical scale, this does a perfect job. Song wise, it’s more of a slow burner – an exploration of moods over hooks – but, in time, this begins to sound like a great centrepiece for the album as a whole.

Latching on to a slow beat at the outset, ‘Finding Phase’ makes no secret of its moody style, but despite a downbeat feel, in keeping with this album’s finest offerings, the track has something beautiful within. A world of reverb adds echoes to the track’s brilliant, 90s imbibed guitar lines during the verse, sharing a dream pop influence against an other-worldly indie infused vocal, pulling in the listener slowly. Then, when Newmoon know the time is right, they unveil another wall of shoegaze distortion, further boosting a retro sound. Still more melodic than the likes of A Place To Bury Strangers, but conveying a genuine intensity, the huge sound taps into something classic. Overall, this two pronged tune will sound like something you’ve heard before (not least of all from Newmoon themselves) but the band share their hazy melodies and intensive riffs with such conviction, it’s hard not to love it.

In just eight songs, Newmoon convey atmosphere, power, noise and strange beauty, almost in equal measure.‘Temporary Light’ is the kind of album that proves that it isn’t necessary to break brand new ground to create something marvellous; the music just needs to be well crafted and come from a place of pure love. This album never feels as if it sells anyone short on that score. Genre-wise, Newmoon hit their chosen mark squarely and with an approach that feels one hundred percent genuine. It’s far more than a throwback, and the finer tunes explore a broad enough musical palate to ensure that this is shoegaze that never feels entirely insular. A highly recommended listen.

November 2023/March 2024