It is a rare and treasured moment to hear an album and think “this is truly like nothing I’ve heard before and it’s spectacular.” Perhaps you had this moment with Radiohead’s 1997 futuristic ‘OK Computer,’ or with the modern jazz of Tom Misch’s ‘Beat Tape 2.’ Some of you had it with ‘Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino’ (some of you didn’t) and, if you put it on this afternoon, you’ll have it with South American experimental, existential EP ‘Strawberry Moon’ by Carter.
Inspired by the trials and tribulations experienced by those around him, the annual super moon that lends its name to the title, and topical themes of self-doubt, nostalgia, insecurity and ‘not giving a fu*k,’ Carter brings us a series of electronic, jazz, experimental indie tunes with a folk-like lyrical presence. They have a gentle temperament, but something in the complex musical tapestry of the tracks is uplifting and fearless.
Starting off with ‘Hypnosis’ which has a deep, solid bass and cacophony of voices laden in the backing track, this two-minute tune introduces us to the range of influences present in Carter’s music. ‘Loud Whispers’ and ‘Interlude (Better)’ are steeped in modern jazz. ‘Loud Whispers’ opens with keys, which the track is built around, reminding us of Cecil Taylor. The drawling, raspy quality of Carter’s voice is ever-present: he doesn’t bother to finish off many of the words, giving them up before the end. It’s as if he’s run dry – or just running. Musical breaks allow for loud silences and an ebb and flow of emotions that follows the cursive synth.
The highlight of the EP are the two tracks ‘Paradise is Cancelled’ and ‘Favourite Ice Cream.’ ‘Paradise’ has a rolling, ethereal instrumental arrangement which feels almost tidal at times. “Do you wake up at night worried about worrying…do you run far away/ far from the dreams you buried” murmurs Carter sinuously. The electronic quality of the instrumentals is a strong choice here, separating the track from a classic beach-boy tune – perhaps due to the producers Carter brought onto on the album, Holland-based musicians Theirry Gans and Jeetu Mohunlol, who streamline Carter’s entangled sound.
Where ‘Paradise’ is stirring, ‘Favourite Ice Cream’ pours down your window on a rainy day. With jazz instrumentals and an R&B guitar solo in the bridge, it lingers somewhere between Billie Eilish’s ‘My Boy’ and Kodaline’s ‘Brother.’
‘Closer’ debut’s Carter’s songwriting talent at its finest. “If I could only love you closer/If I could only love you sober…I’m feeling alive/No that’s a lie/I wanted to go home” sings Carter, bathed in electronic soundscapes. ‘Closer’ feels like a pastiche of a love song. ‘Wurld’ is an outlier, with an overstated drum beat and off the beat vocals, it has a stop-start rhythm which is both polished and contemporary.
Carter demonstrates, through this second EP, the communicative power of music as well as reminding us that there is still space to be innovative, experimental and, well, awesome in music today. ‘Strawberry Moon’ is the perfect temperature – raising your heart rate and cooling you off with chilled, reverb instrumentals.
Read our interview with Carter.
Stream ‘Strawberry Moon‘.