“Where to begin?” the lyrics to ‘Strangers,’ the first single out of Man of Moon’s debut album Dark Sea, to be released in September, ask; “I’m back to the start,” they immediately answer. Perhaps this is the key for reading this song; a haunting, hammering mix of rock and electronica that is both heady and relentless. It is after all, as the first single released from a first long player, the starting point of a journey. As such, it is necessarily a mood-setter, and the mood is thick and ominous, alien and familiar at the same time. Perhaps fittingly with the stage name chosen by the Scottish duo, who recorded the album in a cottage on Loch Fyne, with prehistoric structures looming nearby, there is an impression that this is what rock music from space would sound like: immersive, subtly disquieting, like a voice heard loud and clear but coming from very far.
There are things we know within that voice, but interlaced among themselves in a brand new way, or looked at from a new angle so that they appear different. The vocals (and at times, especially in the second half of the track, the intervening hazy guitars) have something of a distorted Britpop quality, like a never-written Oasis song experienced on an acid trip. The hammering beat that opens ‘Strangers’ owes a debt in equal measure to rock and electronica, with a very strong hint of Kraftwerk. Later, a guitar riff surfaces that is unashamedly punk in nature, with the bass line popping up here and there to create a sense of endless movement. As the lyrics evoke the image of “all of these strangers’ faces crowded around me,” it is this rhythmic flow that gives an almost tangible mass to the restless moving of this crowd. In the instrumental bridges the song surrenders almost to pure house/techno, but it is that thread of rhythm that keeps everything connected, surfacing all the more strongly when the electronic soul of the track takes over, but remaining as an ever-present buzz throughout.
‘Strangers’ is atmospheric, immersive, and cohesive, feeling like a little masterpiece of genre fusion, and managing to be both danceable and meditative. It has in it some of the quality of the Scottish landscape within which it was recorded, and of the restless crowds it speaks about. As a first taste of a new album, it definitely leaves the listener intrigued and hungry for more.
‘Strangers’ is out now – available to Stream/Purchase here.
Photo Credit: Euan Robertson