On their debut album, Call of the Wolf Peach, Pale White Moon dip their toe in shallow puddles of instrumental and chamber music. The dominant voices are guitar and cello, followed by female vocals, variations on a rhythm section, and assorted keys, namely piano and organ. While a reflective quiet runs through most of the music, this peaceful collection can hint at meek tensions within. Unfortunately, shortcomings abound.
Some of Pale White Moon’s music was used in an episode of the successful TV adaptation of the already celebrated public radio program, This American Life. While that lends the band visibility and bragging rights, it’s also trouble. Hearing a few seconds, or even minutes of airtime can be misleading advertising. For example, watch ESPN on a Sunday night and you might think this was the all-time greatest weekend of sports. But you’re only getting part of the story, a few carefully culled minutes from hours upon hours of game time. Likewise, curious audiences who check out more from Pale White Moon, and other featured artists, don’t have the benefit of just hearing the highlights. And Call of the Wolf Peach is not a long highlight reel.
The clear standout here is the album’s closer, “Stars Hollow Days”. There are two versions of the song, the last one being a full chamber performance. The delicately crafted accents in this version make an otherwise mediocre song better. Its unhurried rhythm and simple formula reap sugar-coated benefits from the multiplicity of sounds. And the female lead here has the only vocals of note on the album. They bring an elegant cleanliness to the sophomoric, metaphor-rich lyrics, like “Days of early dark let you bring pleasures to spring, when columns of light lengthen your days, lighting up east rocks”.
On the other end of the spectrum is “Rabbits Run”. Here, electric guitar, bass and drums back a reedy, unsteady female voice lacking in presence. Some tension is concentrated in the chorus, but does little to make this song interesting or alleviate the lyrical tedium.
So that’s the good and bad of it. The rest of the album plays out like little musical exercises–brief, harmless forays into this guitar figure or that waltzing rhythm. Of these, I prefer “The Search for Helium Three”. The slight dissonance maintained between the piano and guitar works well, the latter instrument contributing tiny variations that build the music’s character.
Think of Call of the Wolf Peach as a packet of seeds. A basket of fruit may come, but there’s some work to be done first.
Pale White Moon online
Label : Space Elevator Music