Silver Moth

A leap of faith reaps extraordinary rewards on Black Bay, an album of depth, atmosphere and daring from the collective known as Silver Moth. Recorded under unusual circumstances, Black Bay is the sound of seven storied musicians yielding to shared goals, a policy of trust in action. Between hushed incantations and molten guitars, 15-minute noise-rock epics and healing psalms, the record is a testament to connectivity and receptivity: to a union of disparate minds committing to something greater than the sum of its parts.

Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai, Elisabeth Elektra, Evi Vine, Steven Hill, members of Abrasive Trees, Burning House and Prosthetic Head convened to improvise the album in early 2021, following a Twitter exchange between Abrasive Trees guitarist/songwriter Matthew Rochford and musician Elisabeth Elektra about the Isle of Lewis. A couple of Zoom meetings would subsequently lead to Rochford, Elektra, Vine, Braithwaite, Hill, drummer Ash Babb and cellist Ben Roberts visiting the dramatic location of Great Bernera’s Black Bay Studios on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, where they tracked the songs in just four days: a testament to the musicians’ focused openness to their shared mission and environment.

“Because we didn’t know each other before we went to Black Bay,” says Elisabeth, “we went into a really intense creative mode as soon as we got there. We were in a bubble and there was a lot of collective grief going on, so it was like a pressure cooker, but I think some real beauty came out of it.” As opener ‘Henry’ takes heady shape, that intensity makes its presence felt. Over a stealthy guitar chug, Evi Vine’s crystalline vocal seems to gather the arrangement around her, the players locked together as the song reaches its tempestuous climax: whether you attribute it to the purgative power of loud music, the location or a longed-for sense of communion, something beautiful duly emerges.

A tribute from Elektra to her late friend Alanna, ‘The Eternal’ unfurls with hymnal serenity. The chorus ascends from the plangent verses like a prayer, the players attentive and empathetic. Written by Evi and Elisabeth, the Talk Talk-ish madrigal ‘Mother Tongue’ extends an invitation to “listen” as its paean to female equality unfolds, fuelled by – explains Evi – the “need to reclaim and remember and give voice to those who are silenced”.

Based on a poem by the late Scottish writer Gerard Rochford, ‘Gaelic Psalms’ is a hypnotic spoken-word piece delivered by his son Matthew in fully-felt fashion; samples of lapping water complement the Kelpies and cairns of Gerard’s verse. ‘Hello Doom’ follows, the seven-piece flexing their full reserves of power over 15 minutes of incantatory song and imposing sound-scaping. Finally, ‘Sedna’ extends another tribute to the Outer Hebrides over ambient keys, poised guitar arpeggios and shuddering synths: a song for the sea.

Described by Elisabeth as “the magician who brought it all together,” Pete Fletcher’s production shows great sensitivity to space and mood. The cumulative effect is an album of elemental force and evocative poise, its controlled power focused around the ego-free chemistry between the players. “I knew with everything in me that we could make something powerful, beautiful, celestial and driven,” says Evi, “even though we had never met. We spend our lives in repetition, surrounded by certainty. It’s important to push aside the things we think we understand, because when we least expect it, change comes and we are lost.” By abandoning all certainties, Silver Moth have found something truly special on Black Bay.