Although he’s been making music for more than a few years at this stage, Keith Moss is a recent addition to indie label Reekus Records. With two EP’s released since 2012 – ‘The War Outside Our Door’ and this year’s ‘Torture In Paradise’ – the musician has been attracting attention and no small bit of praise; having gathered a band around him in the form of The Tightrope Walkers, he has just polished off his debut album, ‘What Eludes You Moves You’.
Themes of disillusionment are rife within its songs – with Ireland, its people, and its politics. ‘What Eludes You Moves You’ is almost dystopian in its views, and even the more tender asides on the album are tainted with a dark perspective, making the moments when they do break free from it all the more affecting. Torture In Paradise is the serial killer-inspired opener. As album intros go it’s something of a misleading one, a retro synthpop number that jars in comparison with what follows.
The album settles into its stride with Burn Away Inside. After a downbeat intro, the song lifts at the suddenly-stirring chorus, with its low-key but uplifting “Let your heart surge” sign-off. An early-album beauty comes with Under The Sun’s Light, a restrained and understated ballad with swells of sound bolstering the romantic vocal – “I think you might be the love of my life/ The little miss I grip so tight/ And shine with under the sun’s light” It’s certainly one of the warmest tracks, stripped of the more overt electro adornments – they’re in there, though, an unobtrusive ambience pulsating in the background.
It’s on these more low-key numbers that the album triumphs. The folky, dreamy singing and echoing whistles of Maybe It’s Me recall Syd Barrett, in the ethereal vibe of the vocals, and even more so in the evocation of a disconnect from reality. In The Girl With The Wand At The End an incessant succession of swathed electro tones blink on and off like faint distant lights, in keeping with the songs thematic leanings. It recalls the premise of a vague fairytale, but hints at something much darker. Hazy Thoughts On Foggy Walks is a sombre, confident ballad, detailing a litany of those who live and work by night – within the law and otherwise – as the vocal takes a suitably dramatic upswing in these segments.
There’s a certain psychedelic Sixties feel in the picked guitar and almost-spoken verse accusations of Fat Men Have To Eat, a disdainful state of the nation protest song on cute hoorism. Moss has some choice words for both the “Political puppets on the gravy train” and the electorate, with the rot endemic at every level of the process – “like your folks you vote to keep them in power”. The War Outside Our Door is a more upbeat, catchy pop tune belying an equally scathing theme – “Fully grown adults/ In your childish cults/ Nation of inebriation”
Recurring motifs are used in a negative sense throughout – alcohol; zoos (“concrete”, “clueless”, “plastic”); animals (pigs, rodents, sheep); the night, and those who inhabit it; a state of being alone, rather than loneliness – to illustrate Moss’ vignettes. Moments of levity are brief and fleeting on ‘What Eludes You Moves You’, but every now and then one does penetrate the dense subject matter. Sing To Be Saved rounds off the album in this manner, with Moss singing “The past is a chain/ The present is pain/ Sing to be saved”, a note of redemption to go out on? It’s an assured debut, whatever the abiding undercurrent, one whose melodies supersede whatever darkness lies within the lyrics.