Release Date: October 7, 2016
Label: Wildlife Sanctuary
Lisa Conway (or L CON) has a rebuttal to those who would say that the concept album is a thing of the past. It comes in the form of ‘Moon Milk’, a musing on the nature of the void that is space, based on a collection of science fiction stories, The Cosmicomics, by Italo Calvino. But unlike prog rock albums of the past (especially sci-fi flavoured ones), Conway’s music is crisp, unembellished and contemporary.
The songs are tied together not so much by style (there is, in fact, a fair variety) but by a common aesthetic. There is a sharp distinction between dark and light, and there is as much focus on the space between the notes as on the notes themselves. Sonically, this makes for a very clean sound; thematically, it fits in with Conway’s contemplation of the celestial void perfectly.
Some of the songs are almost pure jazz, such as “All at One Point”, which has Conway crooning like a smoky lounge chanteuse, while trumpet moans and stand-up bass twangs. Then there’s soulful, gospel-blues (“Dinosaurs”), bouncy indie (“How Much Shall We Bet?”), classic music interludes (“Games Without End”), and motorik/kosmiche (“Form of Space”). Frankly, Conway seems to try on a different genre on every track, that’s how diverse it is.
Where, you may ask, is all the “spacey” stuff? Well, it is there, for sure. It’s in the freaky, 2001-style, atonal strings at the beginning of “Form of Space”. It’s in the various touches of analog synth and ‘70s electronics that are sprinkled throughout. But, more than anything, it is in Conway’s cold, unadorned vocal delivery in songs like “At Daybreak” and “My Aquatic Uncle”. By “cold” I don’t mean unemotional, I mean freed of any artifice or false warmth. And by “unadorned” I mean like the futuristic pure white of a spaceship interior.
There are two things that Conway does on ‘Moon Milk’ that makes it great: (a) she touches on many musical styles but totally owns them all, as if each one was her chosen niche; and, (b) she brings all of these disparates sounds together in one cohesive thematic whole. That latter accomplishment takes real skill, perhaps even near-genious.