Review

Various Artists

Searchlight Moonbeam

Efficient Space • 2023

Even grown-ups like to dream. Meet Jack Rollo and Elaine Tierney. As Time Is Away, they traditionally mix adult colouring books and it can’t hurt sometimes. Their new collection, Searchlight Moonbeam, has the story of a search for a lost time in the title, Peter’s Journey to the Moon and other innocent children’s poems. Penny Davenport’s puppy, with its naive manga eyes, greets you from the cover. I could go on for ages about the presentation of this release and how the media covers it, and what that says about the Zeitgeist. Suffice it to say that Rollo and Tierney have struck a chord with the well-educated over-30s with their musical fairytale journeys. Their »Ballads« mixtape is legendary. 

»Searchlight Moonbeam« is not only the successor to that compilation, but also the successor to the uber-compilation »Sky Girl«, which was also released on Efficient Space. Big shoes to fill. And they are. In no uncertain terms. The 15 tracks are, with perhaps two exceptions, not only great when listened to alone, but are also perfectly strung together. At one point you are floating over the ocean in a hot air balloon, with a bed instead of a basket attached, of course. 

A distinctly classical folk piece opens the journey and quickly pushes the garishness of the world far away. Taiwanese spoken word ambient awakens sentimentality, a raga gives the narrative its existentialist arthouse flavour. After just three tracks, this sonic experience already makes a strong impression on the listener. The ornamental pop section that follows (tracks four to six) can trigger a brief defensive attitude, but it is followed by dubbed-out post-punk pieces from a foggy intermediate world in a sequence that lasts for a whole seven songs. Probably the most enthralling album of the year. With their concept, Rollo and Tierney seem to want to create places of refuge through the medium of music. Not through hedonism, but by decelerating and turning away from the material, towards a contemplation of atmosphere. As Andy Warhol once described it, this usually only happens in memory. This is what »Searchlight Moonbeam« does so masterfully: Listening to this compilation feels like remembering.