Antipodean americana often surprises, never dull.
‘Nambucca Fables’ is the fourth solo album from Australian Mark Moldre and comes about as the result of a highly successful crowdfunding campaign. It is a common fallback of the reviewer when asked to discuss a perhaps lesser-known artist, to liken the sound and style to a more familiar name. For every individual listener that resemblance might bring a different artist to mind.
In this case, while the PR blurb mentions The Felice Brothers and Wilco, it is to the Americana favourite and small venue hero Peter Bruntnell that the mind turns as soon as the intricate guitars of Moldre and Jamie Hutchings give way to the vocals on ‘New Suit’. It is a song written to express the disorientation and psychological haze he felt at his mother’s funeral. To say that it resembles Bruntnell at his best is high praise indeed. It is a wistful yet honest appraisal of the dislocation that we all feel at these occasions. In Moldre’s own words, “You just want the day to end. People speak to you and you don’t really hear what they’re saying, You become a ghost for a day, wandering from group to group of mourners but not really engaging. A grey hallucination in a new suit.”
The album is clearly very personal to Moldre. Nambucca Heads is where his mum was born and raised, and the family made regular trips there throughout his childhood. So as well as the subjects of grief and loss the album sees Moldre often take a nostalgic and reflective look back at those times. In doing so Moldre manages to continually surprise with the overall sound with very few tracks sounding the same.
‘This Little Town’ has a prominent twang factor and is a pared-back, gentle-sounding track that belies its subject matter of Chernobyl and its parallels to the insidious advance of cancer. ‘Homecoming’ follows and adds a distinctive violin and female backing to that twang. If that makes this sound all just a tad ‘country’ then that would be very misleading. These continual changes in pace and tone disabuse the listener from any notion of trying to pigeonhole the album.
The use of distorted guitars on some tracks bring an experimental feel to proceedings that brings elements of psychedelia and indie rock to the record. ‘It Is What It Is’ for example features a 3 minute guitar solo that feels a million miles away from that aforementioned gentle violin-led track. The end result is an album that often surprises, but always in a good way. Mark Moldre may be a new voice to many but it is a welcome one.