Based in California, USA, Nathan Moody is a music composer that experiments beyond the parameters of the average human’s comfort zone. According to him, he “loves to build worlds that create mental cinema using sound.” Rather than taking predictable, tonally consonant roads commonly traveled by many musicians in the Ambient/Electronic genre, Nathan explores the uglier and unsettling territory of the sonic spectrum by creating jarring compositions rooted in atonality. Having released music since 2015, Nathan has emerged with a new release, titled A Shadow No Light Could Make. Throughout these fourteen compositions, listeners will find many surreal twists and turns within the arrangements. Unforgiving, merciless, and laden with suspense, each individual work is designed to raise sensations of wonder, surprise, and visceral fear. Nathan performs the majority of the instruments himself on the album – violins, guitars, kemenche, percussion, dulcimer, autoharp, and melodica, just to name a small few – while a number of studio musicians assist in providing additional instruments, including some haunting vocal textures throughout. “An Old Shape” begins the album in a very somber, alluring, yet ominous manner. The next track, “Awoken”, creeps up on the listener slowly like a spider creeping out of the corner waiting for its prey. “First Dream” encapsules a far more unnerving series of soundscapes created by cellos which tonally swirl in a surreal minor second soundscape. One of my favorite compositions, I’m subtly reminded of the film score to There Will Be Blood as well as some of Penderecki’s works. “Watched” is a more low-key, haunting work that creeps in like fog over a lake in a forest deafened by silence. “Working Backwards” takes on a quality that is more drone-like; distorted cellos swirl in and out leaving the listener no break from any suspense. Next, the more distinctly cinematic “The Strange Window” enters the picture in a more rhythmic manner. Pizzicato strings, haunting, detuned bells begin the piece in an alluring, mysterious manner. Electric Guitars and high-timbre violins dominate the middle of the piece, bringing it to a terrifying climax before fading out on a more consonant, high timbre drone. Next, “Followed” enters the landscape, forcing its way in slowly to create as much unease within the listener as possible – its as if it perfectly summarizes the anxiety one feels within when being watched or followed by a stranger. “The Second Dream” has a more harsh, science-fiction like sentiment, reminiscent of Blade Runner and Terminator. “Tenterhooks” stood out to me as one of the eeriest works. Dominated by shrill, pizzicato strings, haunting voices, and some tasteful, foreboding low-end piano sparsely implemented throughout, it gave me the impression of a home being invaded by extra-terrestrial figures, one being possessed by otherworldly demons, or simply an existential nightmare unfolding into a grim reality. “Reawoken” begins with a haunting voice pattern, torn between the angelic and the demonic end of the spectrum. Eventually, the vocals are accompanied by a grotesque, slightly distorted drone that provides an interesting blend of opposites in terms of texture. “Revelation” begins as a piano-centered work with a dream-like quality, rooted in the fear of wondering what lies ahead. Slowly, it segues into a more abstract work as strings and a distorted, drone-like cello carry the remainder of the piece to a sullen conclusion.
“Stepping Through” picks up the suspense and tension with a more dramatic sentiment, as if the listener is in the eye of the storm waiting for the chaos to break. Instead of bursting into a frenzy, however, the piece takes a sudden left-turn into low-key, ambient territory, fading out on a voice-like drone and leaving the listener in anticipation. “The Last Dream” begins with some tribal-like percussion and cymbal hits that portray a scene of brief tension or conflict. It then slowly bleeds into a dissonant pool of strings that swarm like bees. The closer of the album, “A New Shape”, takes on a more abstract quality within its dynamics, tonal textures, and brilliant shifts in both aforementioned aspects. Although not exactly a nightmarish, scary piece, it nonetheless maintains the peculiar, surreal elements of tension heard throughout the entirety of the release. If you enjoy abstract, experimental music that is suspenseful in every way, shape, and form, then I highly recommend checking out Nathan Moody’s new release, A Shadow No Light Could Make. This release would be great to listen to with the lights off, whether your goal is to give yourself the chills or simply to meditate in a hypnotic state while embracing the more primal, mundane elements of the natural world.