Swedish husband/wife duo Moonbabies take a more rhythm-centric approach on their latest, the dance-heavy indie pop Wizards On The Beach.
Moonbabies seem to be suffering a bit of an identity crisis. Coming out of the gates with “Pink Heart Mother” they’re a contemporary synth pop group, heavy on danceable rhythms and vaguely throwback vibe. By the second track “Wizards on the Beach”, however, they’re back to the moodier terrain of their earlier works, relying more on acoustic instruments. Still backed by electronic beats, the mood has suddenly changed from one of a party to something more melancholy. It’s a rather drastic shift that serves to inform much of Wizards on the Beach’s first half.
In discussing the album, Moonbabies’ husband and wife duo Corina Johansson Frick and Ola Frick explained it to be an experiment in songwriting. Focusing on rhythmically dominant songs informed by a newfound love of dance music fostered by the scene in Berlin where they were living at the time, Wizards on the Beach carries with it an air of experimentation with both style and genre, one not always fully realized.
Feeling as though the album were sequenced in chronological order, charting the evolution of their immersion into more rhythm-based compositions, you can feel the duo growing more and more confident with each passing track. By the fifth, “Bird Lay Frue”, a carnivalesque mélange of hazy, paisley psychedelia and stuttering beats, they seem to have found their footing. With this newfound confidence, the remainder of the album continues to successfully meld psychedelic and gorgeous indie pop elements with a host of beats, all lovingly embraced within a glossy pop sheen.
On “Playground Dropouts” they play with repetition to greater effect than the earlier, largely linear “Eli in the Woods”. Similarly, “24”, with its cascading harp-like figure, finds the sound they seemed to be searching for earlier in the album fully realized. In it, they manage an ideal meeting point between the acoustic and electronic, allowing the rhythm to sit front and center without sacrificing their melodic gifts as they had on the title track.
It’s an interesting creative progression that, if the above hypothesis is in fact true, is a bold move in showcasing not only their gradual immersion into a new direction, but also the creative process as a whole. But with such a strong back half, it seems a bit of a waste to have to grow into a sound with which they’re comfortable. Had they simply begun when their songwriting experimentation reached its pinnacle, Wizards on the Beach would have been a masterstroke, a near-perfect fusion of their Swedish pop aesthetics and continental electronic music.
But as presented, the album struggles to find its feet. When it does, however, it ultimately proves well worth the effort in getting there. “Summerlong Wave” is five and a half minutes of summer-y, beat-heavy bliss with the Fricks’ ethereal vocals playing off one another both in real time and decaying loops. Similarly, “Chorus” is their most hook-heavy piece here, with a chorus capable of sticking in your head for days.
Concluding as the album does on such a strong note with the epic “The Ocean Kill”, Moonbabies’ future could very well find the group continuing its more dance-informed style. Whether or not this is merely an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist remains to be seen, but at the very least they’ve managed to create three-quarters of an album that should stand the test of time when all others currently exploring similar sonic territory have faded into the background.