Fever Dreams (Yellow Moon Records)
Fever Dreams begins with the sound of a bar four drinks in and it’s only 9pm. There’s a loose limbs/intense eyes combination that rides the organ bursts like a master but teeters on the edge of the niggling guitar which could yet turn ugly. And sorry folks, but no contradictory banjo (how did that make it into this bar?!) will fully temper that.
It’s blues and soul, with the emphasis on the former, and that song, the provocatively out of sequence Fever Dreams II (if you’re wondering, Fever Dreams I opens “side two” of the album), throws the gauntlet down for both protagonist and listener. “Do I run, or should I stay?”
An answer might be settled by choogling, Dylan-quoting Leave Me Where You Found Me, which comes on strong with its backwashed and gnarly guitar wrestling with the mostly good-humoured piano for tone-setting. There’s a bit of bristling going on here, that fifth drink could make things tricky.
Hold on there though, Mark Moldre is not so easily framed. From here on Fever Dreams is about as mixed as a full table’s order: swinging from woozy country ballads (Full Moon Over Luna Park and White Lightning) and big-sky rock (Til Now and Fever Dreams I) to moody almost astral rocker (Josephine), ramshackle can-rattler (How Long) and back to that mid-60s Dylan electric blues (Keep On Moving).
It’s not radical shifts to be fair; we’re talking common roots and a soundscape that builds on but doesn’t look to deviate too much from a standard band. But by the time you’ve reached the album’s final track, the crushed suede guitar and wrinkled atmosphere Peak Downs Coal, where Moldre sits down next to you as the bar is being wiped down and the chairs are being stacked, and tells you about his doubts, there’s a sense of a zig-zagging journey in the forty minutes behind you.
The closest comparison for Moldre is with Jamie Hutchings, who not-coincidentally produced this album and has made records of roughness and gentleness (emotional as much as musical) consistently.
Moldre isn’t as powerfully driven, nor as emotionally effective as Hutchings, but his expressions of curiosity and confusion in the mouths of people not at the centre of their own stories, let alone society’s, hold up strongly enough.