Explosive horn-and-percussion trio Moon Hooch—Mike Wilbur (horns), Wenzl McGowen (horns), and James Muschler (drums)—will release their third album, 'Red Sky,' on June 10. In advance of street date, NPR Music's First Listen is sharing the album in its entirety here. Earlier this week, Moon Hooch—who are currently touring the UK—made their first appearance on BBC Two's Later...With Jools Holland. Watch the performance here.
Mixing elements of indie rock, virtuosic jazz and pulse-pounding electronic dance music with a DIY spirit, 'Red Sky' captures the spontaneous, entrancing energy of Moon Hooch's live shows, while at the same time demonstrating the marked evolution from their early days busking in the New York City subway system with just two saxophones and a drum kit.
'Red Sky' was recorded at The Bunker studio in Brooklyn. In a previous song premiere, Diffuser described the album as "...a return to their more organic sound, but with no less ambition." The collection opens with the tribal urgency of the title track and proceeds, over the next 45 minutes, to utterly demolish any and every possible barrier that could stand between the music and the dance floor. Yet never content to stay in one sonic place too long, "Psychotubes" finds the trio at their heaviest, channeling apocalyptic fire. The staccato intro of "That's What They Say" gives way to a gritty, late-night come-on of a saxophone line that's far more suggestive than any whispered words ever could be. Wilbur's expanding role as a vocalist is once again felt on the haunting "Sunken Ship," which points to an evolving depth and maturity in Moon Hooch's sound, while "Shot" finds Wilbur delivering a stream of consciousness vocal line over an airtight groove. NPR Music wrote: "We also hear this mostly instrumental band tackle a handful of songs with Wilbur singing; in the past, those tracks felt like a nice break from all the relentless energy, but on 'Red Sky' his vocals feel integral and expansive."
Though the band is heavily inspired by electronic music, they made a conscious effort to use as little in the way of "studio tricks" as possible on 'Red Sky,' aiming instead to capture the sound of their live show, which has developed significantly over the past few years. Onstage, the band now plays through a "Reverse DJ" setup, in which the live sound from their horns runs through laptops to process recorded effects. In addition, they utilize Moog synthesizers, as well as an EWI (an electronic wind instrument that responds to breath in and to touch) and other more traditional instruments like clarinets. Wilbur added vocals to his repertoire, and Muschler, meanwhile, immersed himself in tabla studies in India, which has subtly been making its sonic presence felt.
Moon Hooch has also taken to activism on issues like environmental sustainability, while becoming outspoken proponents of the benefits of meditation and a vegetarian lifestyle, which helped secure an invitation to speak and perform at TED Talks last year. Drummer James Muschler also runs the vegan cooking blog, 'Cooking In The Cave.' The trio initially turned heads in the music industry with their self-titled 2013 debut and its follow up 'This Is Cave Music,' which introduced their charismatic, unconventional sound to the world, but by then they were already well-known to straphangers in New York, who would react with such joy and fervor to their impromptu subway platform sets that the NYPD had to ban them from locations that couldn't handle the crowds.
Moon Hooch is currently on tour with shows stretching throughout 2016 in both the United States and Europe.
June 2 - Bergen, Norway - Nattjazz Festival.
June 4 - Oslo, Norway - Kulturhuset oslo
June 12 - Newport, UK - Isle of Wight Festival
June 16 - Hammonton, NJ - Bearfest
June 18 - Wurtsboro, NY - Destination Moon
June 24 - Londonderry, VT - Frendly Gathering
June 25 - Stratford, CT - Two Roads Brewing Company
June 27 - Edmonton, Canada - TD Edmonton International Jazz Festival
June 28 - Vancouver, Canada - TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival
June 29 - Victoria, Canada - TD Victoria International Jazz Festival
June 30 - Montreal, Canada - Montreal Jazz Festival
July 2 - Lewes, UK - Love Supreme Festival
July 5 - Cardiff, UK - Clwb Ifor Bach
July 9 - Oxford, UK - Virgin People Festival
July 11 - Leeds, UK - Brudenell Social Club
July 12 - Manchester, UK - Band on the Wall
July 19 - Paris, FR - Cabaret Sauvage (supporting Too Many Zooz)
August 11 - Darrington, WA - Summer Meltdown Festival
August 13 - Tamarack, ID - Huckleberry Jam
August 26 - Panama, NY - Night Lights Music Festival
August 26-28 - Atlanta, GA - Imagine Festival
September 15 - Oxford, UK - O2 Academy
September 16 - Brighton, UK - Patterns
September 17 - Liverpool, UK - Arts Club Loft
September 25 - London, UK - O2 Academy Islington