WPGM Recommends: Moonchild – Voyager (Album Review)

moonchild voyager
There’s nothing more wonderful than a sunshine filled summer’s day and a breezy album full of tinkling soulful loveliness. Moonchild might not be able to control the weather but the LA-based trio’s new album, Voyager, is just about the most perfect summer album ever. Bold statement? Allow me to elucidate.

Let’s start with Voyager’s concept; a sunshine bouquet of harps and strings wrapped in layers of Amber Navran’s graceful, at points almost whispering vocals. It is an album where soul, new school jazz, psychedelia and synths chase each other like clouds across a summer sky. It is pure indulgence; a heady mix of lyrical cliché and decadent predictability that nevertheless offers the listener a lot to like.

Opening track “Cure” is a dreamy R&B single that sets the laid-back, effortless tone of the rest of the album. Max Bryk and Andris Mattson’s instrumentation provides just the right amount of breeze for Navran’s vocals to float along with lace-like delicacy. It is Hiatus Kaiyote’s track “Molasses” only with a dollop more saccharine.

6am” is a more slippery affair with gasping synths, tinkling keys and an off-kilter beat that repeats with dogged determination. As with the rest of the album, it is Navran’s vocal styling that really makes this piece work. Without her light touch of melodic intelligence the repetition would become trite and annoying.

This is taken even further with single “Hideaway“, where it is actually only the vocal melody that provides any differentiation between this track and the two previous. This might, on another album, be considered tedious and unimaginative but in the context of Voyager it further adds to the lazy-day listening experience.

There is certainly nothing bland about Moonchild when you consider the musical strata of instruments, sampling and synths employed by the trio to pull off this unforced musical milieu. This is perhaps what gives me the grace to overlook the more flawed aspects of the album.

Yes despite Moonchild’s homogenous tendencies, Voyager can’t help but captivate. Even if you find yourself lost within some of the weaker tracks such as “Run Away” and the bizarre, Super Mario Bros styled “Wahoo!“, you can’t escape the hypnotic pull of the album’s simple and pleasing sound.

Even the ethereal, “Let You Go” with its twee bird song, fairy tale shimmers and wind chimes that bring to mind a mindfulness meditation CD can’t deter me from loving the album’s fragile beauty.

I am not alone. Moonchild has collected praise and following from some big names including soul legend Stevie Wonder, Jill Scott, Robert Glasper and Mercury Prize nominee Laura Mvula.

It demonstrates that you don’t have to make arresting albums full of angst to get noticed. Voyager says “hey guys this is what we’re good at and if it’s ok we’re just going to keep on doing it over and over again?” Well it seems to have worked for bands like Cold Play for many years, so I say if it isn’t broke don’t fix it.

This album then isn’t challenging, doesn’t offer anything in the way of originality or push at any musical boundaries and yet I remain faithful to my original claim that this is the perfect summer album. After all when the sun is shining, the birdsong in full flow and you have endless days spread out in front of you, you need nothing more than to drift away on the breeze – and that is the true splendour of Voyager.

Moonchild’s Voyager delights with predictable ease

Voyager is out now on both digital download and 2LP vinyl, order your copy on Bandcamp here.

Words by Leander Hobbs

Leander Hobbs

Writer, musician and artist working in and around the Bristol area. Leander cut her teeth at Making Music, Disco International and Live magazines before working with several London studios whilst pursuing her own creative projects. She is a regular contributor to local and national music titles as well as a familiar face on the festival scene. Leander has even run her own festival accommodation company:"mainly to get free tickets" . If she isn't listening to, performing, or writing about music Leander loves to travel. In 2017, she will walk 160 miles across the Great Wall of China for charity.

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