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Moulettes Bring Avant Pop to the Cadogan Hall

In early 2015, the lead singer and songwriter of the glorious Moulettes, Hannah Miller read a New Scientist article that described how the discovery of a microscopic creature had redefined the perimeters of life as we know it.

The ‘Halicephalobus Mephisto’ Nematode Worm has none of the requirements of other known life forms – it is able to survive deep underground, without oxygen or sunlight. The seed was sown for ‘Preternatural’ – an eclectic 11-track opus for the Natural World, and the strange and beautiful creatures in it.

“It made me contemplate how much we still don’t know about the planet we live on, and to consider that moving space between what we do know, and what we can never know; at the frontier of science and discovery.” says Miller. “The animal kingdom holds such a wealth of beauty, creativity, humour, ingenuity and artistry. I wanted to celebrate it, to underline its fragility, to hold up a mirror and compare our own species to others.”

The band, like the creatures they describe, have always been an evolving phenomenon, and each album has seen a significant leap into new unchartered territory, their unusual music vision prompting comparisons as disparate as “…the Kronos Quartet, Roxy Music, Frank Zappa, Kate Bush… echoes of early Pink Floyd, Bowie and Radiohead, Kraftwerk and Björk.” (R2 Magazine / Reuters.)

“We identify with bands who present their own kind of eclecticism,” says Oliver Austin. “From Zappa, and Gentle Giant to current bands like Field Music, John Grant, Snarky Puppy, Laura Mvula, My Brightest Diamond, tUnE-yArDs and Tortoise; these were all references for the record.”

It is a beautifully orchestrated ecosystem, experimental in parts but still accessible, fusing rich vocal harmonies, persuasive melodies, big riffs, detailed arrangements and sharp songcraft to make a genre-defying album, which explores the moving space between electronic and acoustic; DIY and big production.

The arrival of newest member Raevennan Husbandes catalysed a rockier mood; her stark and fluid electric guitar playing complementing Miller’s virtuosic cello to forge a muscular, unique sound-blend. Husbandes’ & Miller’s luminous voices deliver characteristic multi-layered harmonies locked in with a towering, thunderous rhythm section (Mortimore / Austin), the band’s synergy and tightness is a testament to their relentless touring schedule; their musical range described by Prog Magazine as “huge, complex and compelling. One of the most thrillingly nimble musical ensembles the UK has produced in decades.”

Incurably ambitious, this is a band that has always put an adventurous approach to Art at the heart of their craft. The front cover best demonstrates Moulettes for what it is: an eclectic, progressive hybrid, a bizarre and bombastic monster.

December 2017 is the concluding chapter of the two-year ‘Preternatural’ tour, and the last chance to see the breathtaking live show that has taken the band across Europe from Poland to Malta, and across Canada from Nova Scotia to Victoria Island.

SEEN caught up with Moulettes to ask them a few questions and found Hannah Miller on fine and voluble form…

Congratulations on the new tour for Preternatural! SEEN is looking forward to the gig at Cadogan Hall on December 8th. Do you anticipate that the show will evolve somewhat as the tour progresses?

Thank you! Yes, Cadogan Hall will be mega, with 9Bach & Ayanna Witter-Johnson –  it’s a formidable line-up, a musical feast. There’s always improvised corners in the songs, and space to evolve and develop. Long tours make bands super-tight! With a certain glittering sleep-deprived madness…

You’ve made no secret of your many eclectic influences – did you grow up in musical households?

I’m very fortunate that my Dad is an instrument maker (alanmillerguitars.co.uk) and has made me a beautiful 5-string electric cello custom-built for the purpose of being loud, playing in a rock setting,  whilst retaining some of the subtle overtones of an acoustic cello; when I was little my Mum used to patiently explain that if I wanted to be a good player, I had to practise, you don’t always make the link at that age. Also, everyone in my family played something growing up – and they’re all quite a bit older than me so I had a direct line in to some quality music collections. Jim was born in a bass drum, Ollie was always in rock bands with his brother, learning stern rock-discipline, and Raevennan had to be torn away from playing her guitar. We all listen to a huge variety of music of all eras and styles.

Are the visual elements in the show also your domain?

Sound and vision! I do always have a strong visual sense about the music, and I have always made a lot of the album artwork and posters – and we have been lucky enough to work on some of our ideas with some great visual artists. (Niamh Murray for ‘Preternatural’, Illustrator Adam Oehlers and Sculptor Rick Bosman for ‘Constellations’.)
There is always a detailed process and a lot of thought behind every element of the records we make. I love the possibilities of visual art and music together – sharp editing, animation, playing with light and mirrors. I want to continue to experiment in this dream-building realm.

Do you see your evocation of ‘unknowable’ nature as part of a greater movement around eco-awareness?

This deserves a detailed answer.
We wanted to make music about something relevant and vital, and beautiful. It is intended to be, broadly, a warning about the dangers of monoculture, in every area of life. Diversity and adaptability are integral to our survival and quality of life.
But this is not to say I think it’s not enough just to make art about it! Our fate is bound to the one planet we have. At the moment I feel like we’re in a race to the bottom, and running out of time fast.
The fact that green politics are not at the forefront of all government manifestos is just bizarre to me. This is not to suggest that issues of social justice should not be; on the contrary, I feel that the culprits are often the same. The Big corporations that don’t pay tax, eager to squeeze out every last drop of oil rather than invest in renewables; that are part of the war-machine; that exploit their workers; and the governments that are hand in glove with them.
They have passed the buck on to us and made it about personal choices. Of course we can try and make ethical and green choices but the system most of us live within makes it nearly impossible to live up to our own ideals, and our disregard for the natural world feeds in to our isolation from each other. There needs to be a radical shift in the infrastructure.
We need to lobby big corporations, and hold our governments accountable. It can be done, but only together. I would like to think that ‘Preternatural’ sparked some dialogue, or conversation, but there is much work to be done.

Anywhere in London that you particularly hanker to visit? SEEN imagines the Natural History Museum must be on your list…

I love the Natural History museum – we visited on a research trip when making the record. I especially like the rooms with all the crystalline formations. There is an audio-visual exhibition at the Strand called ‘Everything at Once’ That I would like to see, themed around a quote by experimental artist-musician John Cage, who said: ‘Nowadays everything happens at once and our souls are conveniently electronic (Omni-attentive).’ I’d really like to go to the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History… it looks like a real surrealist mash up of stuff!

Check out Moulettes live in Brighton here:

Moulettes play Cadogan Hall on December 8th:
www.cadoganhall.com

Cadogan Hall
5 Sloane Terrace
London
SW1X 9DQ

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