The Magic of Moon Revenge

The birth of a new band in the Brooklyn music scene

Since the last weekend in January, I’ve been walking around the city with a secret. On Saturday, I saw a live performance from a band that only has one song on the Internet. The song is called “Radiant Color”, and you can listen to it here (or, if you’d like, at the bottom of the screen).

Marie Parker’s previous project, Secret Cities, released three LPs in the first half of this decade. Since then, Marie has moved from the Midwest to Brooklyn and started a new project, called Moon Revenge, with contributions from the other two members of Secret Cities — Alex Abnos and Charlie Gokey — as well as violinist Emily Kim Goldsmith. On January 27 at intimate Bushwick venue Pine Box Rock Shop, I had the privilege of attending one of their first few live performances performing the new material.

Credit: Moon Revenge’s official Facebook page

Whereas Secret Cities’ sound recalls the emotionally and sonically distant sounds of the mid-60’s, at times with an explicit focus on the influences of Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, and, at its lightest, may even meander into the realm of “twee”, Moon Revenge dwells in a dimly lit place of magical realism and genre fluidity, near the border of “classical” and “indie rock”. The addition of Goldsmith’s confident violin is only part of what gives Moon Revenge a different feel from that of Secret Cities; in fact, the main difference lies in the noticeable shift towards classical stylings in Marie’s keyboard riffs. The glimmering first eight seconds of her lone keyboard in “Radiant Color” bring to mind tracks from all over the musical map: Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”, Wolf Parade’s “Soldier’s Grin”, Regina Spektor’s “The Flowers”. Soon, the keyboard is joined by a brushed, syncopated drum-beat from Alex Abnos, channeling the chill jazziness of an In Rainbows-era Phil Selway.

It’s then that Marie begins to tell a story. Perhaps it is a fairy tale (“The Magic Keyboard”?), or perhaps it is a story from her own life. Most likely of all, it is both. Far away, she sings, a storm is brewing: “I see the lightning a mile away / I counted down, counting by the second / It’s getting closer / we maybe want to take cover.” As the storm approaches, the drums and keyboard are joined by bass; at that moment, the production satisfyingly snaps into place. In the narrator’s search for cover, she runs down a hill and, looking down, sees the mysterious burst of radiant color that gives the song its name. Then, over the next two minutes, anchored by the aforementioned confident violin of Goldsmith, the band exemplifies their ability to slowly build and release like a Romantic-era chamber ensemble.

Marie’s vocals work well in this world of instrumentation — her style and range are close to that of Natalie Merchant or Lorely Rodriguez (a.k.a. Empress Of), the kind of voice that is at once impressive and refreshingly unintimidating; if you were singing with Marie and your other friends around a campfire, you’d definitely notice that Marie has a nice voice, but you might not expect that she is a professional vocalist. That’s a good thing, because it helps shift the listener’s focus to what sets Moon Revenge apart in the vast Brooklyn music scene, namely their ability to maintain a cohesive sound while shifting styles. “Radiant Color” demonstrates that ability well: over the course of four minutes, the listener is transported from intimate, classical-adjacent keyboard to jazzy jamming to an enveloping violin-led climax reminiscent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor (though significantly more compact, in terms of both volume and minutes).

At the end of the song, following a series of descending piano chords that serve as the most explicit gesture towards the project’s classical aesthetic, the clouds clear. Marie is again alone with her keyboard as clarity returns to her lyrics for a final dose of curious magic: “So I ran away / Ever since that day / I’d be lying if I said I never wondered where it led / Had to be a spell / couldn’t find the well / I can never go / I’ll never go back there again”.

Like the lyrics of their only released song, Moon Revenge’s live performance left me reflective but engaged, wanting to know what happens next. As the group moved from soaring violin solos to psych rock-esque jam sessions, always held together by the busy-handed technicality of Marie’s classical keyboard, each musician came across as surreally humble for the level of facility with which they played their instrument.

Luckily for us, there is word of a full-length debut coming from the group later this year. And luckily for New Yorkers in the meantime, the next chapter of the fairy tale takes place at The Bitter End on February 16.

Music moves us through our lives in productive and spiritually significant ways. I write about that. More writing on The Wild Honey Pie, FRONTRUNNER, & Patreon.