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Album Review: Moss of Aura – March (Unsigned)

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MP3: Moss of Aura – Cowboy

For the sound achieved by Future Islands, the importance of William Cashion’s rolling bass and Sam Herring’s impassioned vocals cannot be overstated. Both are incredibly important elements that have made the group one of Baltimore’s best and were critical in producing the band’s best album to date, this year’s In Evening Air.  But, with all due respect to them, the synthesizers and programming of J. Gerritt Welmers are the New Wave straw that stirs their “post-wave” drink.

His notes and backing beats can make a song like “Old Friend” a bubbly dance floor anthem in one moment, then intone as much emotion and despair as Herring’s tortured singing on “In The Fall” in the next.

Performing solo under the moniker Moss of Aura, Welmers has taken his cache of synthesized wizardry and filled out the arrangements a little more, while also giving them room to breathe. March takes us on a mellowed out journey through warm tones and tropical sounds that make for a highly enjoyable listen, the perfect summer album. Basically, if you’re not bumping this while grilling Esskay Oriole Franks and sipping Natty Bohs in the backyard, then you’re missing out.

Structurally, the songs all rely on a booming bass beat or dominant rhythm, each strolling at a leisurely pace that gives off a relaxed vibe that allows for easy head nodding. How Welmers fleshes out the rest is where he really flexes his creative muscle.

Album opener “Peat” boasts the blare of what sounds more like a trumpet in a reggae song than something out of a New Wave jam. Similarly, “Thundra” borrows from the musical island home of reggae using melodies that faintly resemble the “ting” of steel drums.

But to say the album is devoid of 80′s flashbacks would be slightly misleading (we are talking about synthesizers, after all). “Cowboy” sounds like a lost song from the soundtrack of an old Nintendo game with a fat bass beat added in, and I mean that as the highest possible compliment.

Moss of Aura has had a very workman-like rise in Baltimore. I first saw him open up for Deacon (now it’s back to Deakin) of Animal Collective fame at the Ottobar. Amongst me and my friends, his act clearly stood out as our favorite opener. Since then, he has filled out bills all over town. Beach House is bringing Moss of Aura along for three dates in June.

Point being, though Welmers’ solo work may not have the success of his main band, his side project can stand on its own. March proves he can not only build on his output from Future Islands, but also diversify the genre touchstones in the music.

Label: Unsigned

Release date: March 2010

Track list:

  1. Peat
  2. Team
  3. Thundra
  4. Crush
  5. Cowboy
  6. Shallow
  7. Swilling
  8. Climb

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4 Responses to “Album Review: Moss of Aura – March (Unsigned)”

  1. Craig Shay says:

    I didn’t like that review that much. You didn’t mention Team.

  2. Nolan says:

    moss of aura is my favorite baltimore-local act to listen to. hands down.

  3. Mark Jay Cubs says:

    yeah okay nolan. Nuclear Power Pants are way better.

  4. chris says:

    I really like his sound, definitely going to be one of my records of the summer.

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