MOOP’s Ostara begins with a flourish and then settles into a slowly-evolving set of chords from guitarist Julien Coupet and baritone saxist William Brandy, as well as counter-beats from drummer Erwin Toul. Despite being oriented toward heavy rock, post-rock, and free jazz, the group plays with a degree of restraint, keeping Ostara at a slow burn throughout a good portion of its four lengthy tracks. Coupet and Brandy come together and break apart across riffs, short motifs, longer drones, and passages of atmospheric improvisation. But when not building tension the group pushes forward by releasing it in the form of less-structured movements with heady feedback-laden guitars, voices, and wailing sax.
Case in point, the title track features staccato guitar and sax lines that go in and out of synch with one another over sparse but rattling percussion. This morphs into sax solos over gritty riffs and propulsively active drumming. A hallmark of MOOP’s style is that they never take the easy way out – even when working through a rhythmic progression, Coupet, Brandy, and Toul add in a few extra embellishments, twists, and brief diversions. This attention to detail only adds to the album’s rough charm.
Comparisons? King Crimson for sure in spirit if not in exact style perhaps with a similarly attenuated feel of Godspeed You Black Emperor. Strongly recommended.