Picking up where we left off after our Moulettes interview, last Friday evening at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival the quintet offered a thoughtful commentary on marine ecology through the performance of several tracks from their latest full-length release Preternatural.
Each song framed unconventionally intelligent pop music – made with refreshingly unusual instruments such as the bassoon – around lyrical themes which spotlight the last great planetary frontier and the creatures that live in its depths, and marvel at the intricate adaptations of evolutionary biology and how precarious is the fate of sea creatures, given the effects of industry on our oceans.
As we were recently reminded by Iggy Pop’s speech regarding the unsustainability of careers in music (thanks to a different sort of exploitation by humans, i.e. illegal downloading), every opportunity to see a touring act must be considered the one and only chance to do so. Like marine creatures pushed to the brink of extinction, bands are an increasingly endangered species – even a well-rehearsed, focused ensemble like Moulettes isn’t immune to the vagaries of markets or politics, but perhaps that vulnerability gives the band its creative license to reinvent pop music.
Sadly it seems unlikely that pop stars will cover a song like “Pufferfish Love” for their booty-shaking fans anytime soon (even though they ought to), but the audience at Jericho Beach listened attentively to bandleader Hannah Miller’s accounts of the pufferfish’s artistic mating ritual and the gender fluidity of jellyfish (“Medusa”). Moulettes songs are often subtly layered with complex melodies and rarely does a groove linger for long, but when they rock out as on “Behemooth”, the audience catches on in a heartbeat.
One would have loved to hear the groovier passages linger a little longer – the cello/bassoon combination is killer, particularly in a live context – but if our foolhardy species can survive these challenging seasons a little longer then perhaps Moulettes will follow its familiar migration route back across the pond sometime soon.