Black Bay by Silver Moth

Release date: April 21, 2023
Label: Bella Union

Lockdown was a truly horrible thing to have lived through. Undoubtedly even more horrific if you lost someone to the pandemic. Yet out of this torrid experience, musicians found new levels of creativity bringing hope and joy, in the midst of all the seemingly never-ending doom. A chance interaction on social media brought about the collective known as Silver Moth, and their debut album Black Bay is truly stunning. The protagonists in this venture are Ash Babb (drummer-Burning House/Academy of Sun), Elisabeth Elektra (singer/producer/songwriter), Steven Hill (guitars/keyboards-Evi Vine), Ben Roberts (cellist/bassist/multi-instrumentalist-Evi Vine/Prosthetic Head/Abrasive Trees), Matthew Rochford (guitarist/songwriter-Abrasive Trees), Evi Vine (singer/songwriter/bassist/guitarist) and Stuart Braithwaite. Yes, that chap from Mogwai and Minor Victories.

The main detail here is that some of the band knew some of the band, but essentially, they didn’t know each other. After a few Zoom meetings, they took the decision to book Black Bay Studio on Great Bernera, to have something to look forward to. None of the album had been written beforehand and it was tracked in just four days and mixed and overdubbed during the following four days. Remarkable given the content. As Elisabeth explains “Because we didn’t know each other before we went to Black Bay, we went into a really intense creative mode as soon as we got there”. Production duties were performed by Pete Fletcher and credit must go to him for the sounds on this album are exquisite.

It’s nigh on impossible not to compare Silver Moth with Mogwai given the key exponent’s involvement. On opening track ‘Henry’, layers of guitars and creaking sighing tones lay out a haunting soundscape for Evi’s stunning voice. ‘Henry’ is a melancholic and lush lake of emotion with spellbinding lapping waves of soothing tones. Of course, there might be the odd attack of noise and indeed the track erupts into a distorted sequence where the band get to soar.

A wheezing cello and droning guitar usher in the shimmering beauty of ‘The Eternal’, a tribute to Elisabeth’s late friend Alanna. The melodies are heart breaking and the mirage of melancholy is stunning as guitars and voice melt. I think I have my own little genre to put music like this into, I call it mountain music, because there is nothing better to soothe the soul than to gaze up at mountains listening to it. Stuart Braithwaite has been responsible for most of the music in this genre admittedly. After all this time the man STILL manages to confound the listener with stunning sounds and dynamics, ably helped here by Steven, Matthew and Evi.

Lead song ‘Mother Tongue’ heralded Silver Moth’s arrival, with languid and spacious guitars. The track is a paean to female equality as Evi explains there is a “need to reclaim and remember and give voice to those who are silenced”. Clearly influenced by Talk Talk, the song winds and snakes with consummate ease, as it builds with layers of delicate guitars and a proggy solo. To be honest, the song almost side-stepped me because it appeared to lack immediacy, but it has a yearning desire to keep you coming back. Every listen reveals new sounds that you haven’t detected. It’s mesmerising and hypnotic and probably likely to be a near religious experience played live, if that ever happens.

After this initial trilogy of greatness, I find myself waywardly wanting the pivotal spoken word track ‘Gaelic Psalms’ to pass. Based on a poem by the late Scottish writer Gerard Rochford, his son Matthew delivers the piece which sits centrally in the album.


Things get very extravagant and progressive in the elaborate ‘Hello Doom’. Weighing in at a hefty 15 minutes in length, the journey begins with eastern tones, not dissimilar to Mogwai’s ‘My Father My King’. It takes almost four minutes before percussion joins the throng as the guitars shunt into the red zone of distortion. You sense imminent noise and tension. It sounds like some form of feasting is going on as the mischievous clanks and taps sound like bowls or plates being scraped. Like the aforementioned Mogwai classic, ‘Hello Doom’ begins to take on an entirely different atmospheric as the layers of distortion build and topple, then rebuild and collapse. If doom has a sound, then this is probably what it might sound like as tortured souls destroy the ambience. Eventually there is a subsidence as mercy resolves the conflict and we’re transported to a place of peace and tranquillity. Albeit with some creepy creaks and scrapes. The final three minutes find whispering voices and haunting synths create an eery tunnel of hope and incoming light.

Closing track ‘Sedna’ fires up on a whirling kaleidoscope of synths and flickering guitars. It’s magical and encompassing soaring with newly empowered hope and positivity. This is unlike anything else you will hear and finds seasoned musicians at the height of their powers exploring new ways to confound, but not to show off. We the audience, should feel privileged to be allowed to hear this music as it is pulsing with emotion and release. The heady loops and drones bring a relaxed and hallucinatory feeling, again I would imagine this will be truly very special in a live setting. Cruelly, the track winds to an end before you want it to, these hypnotic tones are really a joy to behold.

I was drawn to this album with the double hook of Stuart Braithwaite’s involvement and the release on Bella Union. Admittedly, I knew nothing of the other players but what I have found here encourages me to do so. Across the six tracks, the musicianship is sublime, you would have no inclination that they had not previously met. Also, these songs were not even written in advance of the recording. Truly remarkable. The circumstances that led to the album’s creation ultimately changed the world, not for the better. We’ll take any small victories we can get from that particular shit show. Black Bay exists by chance, but given the people involved, there was no chance it wouldn’t be an amazing album. More please.

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