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Ava Luna - Moon 2 Music Album Reviews

The Brooklyn band’s latest is one of their best, a shifting and teasing kind of electro-funk that exists on their own plane of gravity.

Ava Luna have always moved by rapidly and with an independent time signature, but Moon 2 is the band’s most propulsive album and maybe their best. It follows 2015’s clash-clang Infinite House, 2014’s bluesy needy Electric Balloon, and a few years of shifting roles within the ensemble. Carlos Hernandez has leaned out of his leadership position; on hiatus are his commanding screams as well. Felicia Douglass is on a new job doing slippery percussion and samples as well as synth and vocals; Julian Fader found an excellent place on the synths in addition to drums. And Rebecca Kauffman has written her first song for the band, the otherworldly “On Its Side the Fallen Fire” that echoes with a Laurie Anderson state of spare stateliness.

The band’s sixth album, Moon 2 could be a sonic map of a moon, if earth had a moon that was cooler than the one we have now. The Brooklyn band digs into their namesake to gives us a tour of this planetary body’s rowdy, turbulent noisy landscape. It’s a teasing electro-funk that plays on a gravity plane where everything is a different weight, sounds melt more deeply and float off more easily.

Moon 2 is almost invitational. The band welcomes us at a distance, like they are supplying a visa for studying abroad. There are glimpses of joyful everyday errands in the side-step bounce of “Deli Run.” The velocity is unexpected, sometimes giving the feeling it has rushed you into a fraught highway merge, as in “Walking With an Enemy,” which has alien purrs from imagined fauna and an extraterrestrial stream of eerie-ass whooshes. You hear snippets from noisy parties out of apartment windows, gossip on sidewalks, grooves out of car windows, the rumble of your own engine, the screech of a scary run-in. The title song crystallizes the stomach-lurching, emotional K-turn that happens when you bump into a dangerous crush. The reggae languor of the bass wants you to swing your torso right back home, a Kraftwerk synth sympathizes with your alarm, and a panicked excuse: “Turn around, I left the oven on.”

There is spookiness on Moon 2. The shifts in mood, mercurial beats, and noncommittal melody don’t let you hang out for very long on one thing. Even though they slink by fast, the sounds are full and realized; you have the sense you’re just moving through a world that exists without you. Conversations interrupt each other and fade out, Doppler-style: Kauffman’s cavernous, clear voice runs across Douglass’ springy velvet harmonizing, and Hernandez has fun with his deep, almost militaristic authority. Sometimes, like in “Centerline,” the band is explicitly interested in position and perspective and where everyone is standing. One person lands hard back to reality (“After our lavish vacation/Charges from the mini bar/I can get you back, I mean it”) and the other is slowly thinking about how it’s impossible to know one another (“Thaw the iceberg, you will see/Your original reflection staring back at me”).

The touchstone sample for this album was a warped tape of a ’90s women’s group singing neo-pagan ritual chants that Kauffman found at a yard sale. This sense of the collective is infused into Moon 2. The band wrote and recorded the album on two cold-season trips, up to Vermont and during a blizzard on the Massachusetts shoreline. They set up a studio in the basement and ventured down solo or in small groups to work on what the people before had left behind. It was written by picking up what the others were putting down.

Ava Luna is seduced by group dynamics and interactive creativity as a theme: who goes on the deli run, who sits out, who throws in, who pays it forward, who promises. They have never shied from commixing independent sounds. In Moon 2, they have captured this utopian sort of jostling, where two people banging into each other make a great noise, and there’s a productive coincidence around each turn. They commingle, like the best neighborhoods, in the most alive cities, on way more exciting, alternative moons.

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