Arda & The Stolen Moon – Outsider In Perpetual Motion – Album Review
“Guess I’ll never, ever go viral.” #Heard
Yet…I suspect that, despite toiling in the anonymity of the black hole of the internet, both Arda & The Stolen Moon, and yours truly here, will probably be around much longer than whatever flash in the pan has caught on at the moment. “Emotional Hacking” is a really cleverly written tune…smart in the sense that, it’s not pretentious – it’s not written to be a hit, and its chances in that regard would be super slim – but is it realer than 99% of what you’ll listen to out there? You betcha. Is there more art involved in this cut than you’ll find in the vast majority of the scene? Double-check. So am I personally happy with it? Yup – and so should Arda & The Stolen Moon be. If it was up to likes at Facebook, hearts on Instagram, thumbs-up at YouTube etc. to determine our worth as artists, I’d have walked away from everything about the music-scene long, long ago. “Emotional Hacking,” the first cut on Arda & The Stolen Moon’s new record Outsider In Perpetual Motion proves there’s at least ONE other person on this hollow planet we’ve created that understands a bit of meaning & substance might actually matter. So I’m with ya Arda…I hear ya…maybe one day truth, beauty, poetry, and art will be what goes viral; I’m convinced I’ll be six-feet underground and a hot steamy lunch for the worms long before that day ever comes, but maybe one day it’ll happen…maybe the future will really value some kind of important stuff. “Emotional Hacking” is about being “disengaged” and a step behind the rest of the times in terms of what’s catching on with the kids out there…all I can say is, long may you run Arda & The Stolen Moon – I’d trade a thousand Kardashians in for just one of you in this world…and I think there are that many of’em last I counted. You get the point – “this is my anthem, this is my truth” as Arda sings…music like this…moments in time like this song & this record…they’re so much more meaningful than headline spam. If this band keeps it up…they might just find themselves on a similar path as St. Vincent one day.
“The Duke Of Icicle” is instantly interesting, melodic, and upfront about what it is…the clue is right there in the title and how it harkens the old-school classics like “Duke Of Earl” & whatnot. It’s no carbon copy when it comes right down to it, but similar to cuts from the golden era of Rock on into the 60s…you’ll get what I mean when you have a listen for yourself; it borrows without borrowing too much. You might even consider this track to be a subtle nod towards climate change and a story of our planet personified through “The Duke Of Icicle” – though I suspect I’m probably reading a bit more into it than intended. If you listen to the chorus though, it’s possible…that’s all I’m saying. We all take whatever messages we think we can hear in music, internalize them, and apply them however seems to make sense…and usually that’s miles away from the original intentions of the artists creating the songs we’re listening to. All I can tell ya for sure, is that I freakin’ love this track…I might even give this tune a few more points for the verses than the chorus…honestly, I think there are more hooks & sweetness to be found in the verses than I felt like the chorus raised this track up to the next level you’d typically expect – but I still found myself enjoying every minute & second of this track regardless…it’s a really strong song & actually quite single-worthy too. Arda sounds fantastic in singing this song, the band right on-point with the melody in the music as well…I’m a big fan of “The Duke Of Icicle,” he’s been keepin’ my summer cool.
While the lineup on Outsider In Perpetual Motion might only be nine songs long, each track has a significant amount of depth & lots to listen to…in fact, the shortest track is only seconds shy of being four-minutes long. So on paper, it might look like it’s a shorter record by comparison to most of what’s out there, but in reality, it’s not at all…you get value here on this record, with each track offering real quality through attention to detail. “Signals” is a great example of all that in action…at five minutes in length, I’m not going to say it’s THE track of all tracks on this record, but I am going to say that it’s a very well executed idea that examines communication in many forms, from what we say, to how we act, to how it’s all potentially monitored, to straight ahead words, to tribal-esque vocalizations as well…and it’s got a chasm of depth to be found in the music that comes along with the ideas & words. I dig the seriousness in this whole vibe right from the drop…Arda’s vocals keep “Signals” intensely interesting & engaging, but credit where credit is due – the music on this track really shines throughout the verses. It might be a bit more uneven between the balance of strengths verse/chorus-wise…but that’s probably because the verses are that freakin’ amazing, with so much brilliant detail threaded into the lyricism.
Flash forward to “Twenty63” – Arda’s taken us into the future and exposed what a prison it’s become. Emphasized by the chorus of “let me out, let me out” – you can feel the claustrophobia take you over in listening to this track when you’re paying attention to the lyricism…I ain’t gonna lie to ya, “Twenty63” is practically HORRIFIC when it comes to its theme and the remarkable accuracy in the theories it creates. It might not be so scary if it wasn’t so potentially real…but as far as I can tell, Arda’s pretty much bang-on with her assessments of where the world is heading & the artificial nature of life itself coming soon. I’m sure there are people out there that’ll look at a record like this, and feel like it’s largely pessimistic – and if that’s you, that’s OK…people like Arda, people like myself, we get it…it’s only time that eventually proves how right we are about things heading in the wrong direction. No one’s being pessimistic at all when it comes right down to it – only realistic, objective, and level-headed…it might be scary as hell, but there’s a clarity that comes with understanding things before they actually happen. Quite maddening at times, sure, but clear all the same…and for those of us with the gift of insight, it helps us prepare for the days ahead and not be so shocked by the things that happen in the plot twists of planet earth. I’ll be 83 years old when the world reaches “Twenty63” and all I can think is that it’d be a nightmare to still be around at that point in time. I ain’t going nowhere…that’s the reality…I plan to be a pock-mark on this planet until the sun burns me to a crisp like the bug I am after my air conditioner finally stops working, and maybe even after that somehow if I can stay alive on the inside whilst cookin’ in my skin. Anyhow – this ain’t about me…I’m stoked about how Arda’s put such incredibly unique ideas into the lyricism and themes of this record…this is thought-provoking all-around, and great musings on the possibilities that are ahead of us, for better, or for worse. I like music that makes us think a lil’ bit, you know? I also felt like the saxophone in “Twenty63” came out excellent too. All-in-all, “Twenty63” is a boldly artistic reminder that our vanity is inescapable, and the plastic that we are & we’ve become will outlive us all.
Comparatively, mix-wise…I’m not 100% convinced that the vocals on “Wishing” shouldn’t come up a couple notches or two. I feel like I’ve reached for the volume on this track consistently to get to what’s being sung in the verses…but I’ll admit, I’m probably that much more invested in the words written into this album than most listeners tend to be. In any event, it’s a factor all the same…eventually, it gets resolved around the 1:30 mark as Arda sings the main hooks. Overall, I get it – and you will too once you have a listen…”Wishing” would be no easy task to mix…it’s hella ambitious, and would prove to be a challenge to even the most seasoned veterans of the studio boards. That being said, it presents one of the most undeniably kickass moments on the entire record when the quiet/loud dynamics shift, the clouds part, and this track goes OFF to explore into an array of hyper-color sound. In all honestly…I’m SO CLOSE to being like, YES…I WILL trade this for that, because the payload in that moment on “Wishing” is so freakin’ immaculate and outright BOLD as it leaps from your speakers that it’s worth the price of admission just to witness that moment alone. As to whether or not a track like “Wishing” can survive being on both sides of the threshold…as in, too quiet/too loud for most listeners…that might be another story folks…my gut tells me that if I’m on the fence, others have already fallen off to one side or the other and made their mind up. Personally, I love how unpredictable this major switch at 2:25 really is…not a single person on earth listening would have ever seen it coming on that first spin…and I ain’t gonna lie to ya…I feel like I could have done with a bit MORE of it. To me, it strikes me as all kinds of risky to begin with in the midst of a song so clearly delicate…so if that’s the case, go the whole nine yards, know what I mean? Give us a minute or more of that extreme sound I say! And if you’re not gonna do it here in the recording Arda & The Stolen Moon…my advice is to definitely figure out a way to extend this track to make it a monumental live-experience, where that switch serves as a huge departure…maybe toss in a piece of some other song for a medley…circle back around at the end…that kind of thing. I will say this…I like both sides of this cut’s personality…it’s tough to say whether or not it’s a track that the majority of listeners will be able to handle overall, but I’m definitely diggin’ the idea.
A lot of these songs…we have to recognize…serve as a vehicle for the words of Arda. I’m not quite ready to declare the music to be a complete afterthought – but I do recognize what the actual priority IS. In doing so, you have to then realize that, not a ton of music out there supporting words tends to be that naturally catchy…it’s generally the other way around, which then has lyricists/singers compromising what they want to say or how they’d say it, in order to fit some sort of pattern or musical design. And as far as I know, as far as I’ve learned…there’s really no in between…it’s usually one or the other…and if it’s not either of those, you’re probably listening to something that’s instrumental, you feel me? “The Pebble In My Shoe” becomes a highlight example of what I mean…accessibility-wise, we’re around the halfway point…the court of public opinion could probably take or leave this cut based on how things sound, even though there’s really nothing that I could advise being changed compositionally or performance-wise to make it better in that sense – because that’s not the priority. The priority of a song like this, is the words, full-stop – and if the rest happens to fall in line and the hooks end up catchy enough, that becomes a bonus. It’s a trade-off that many artists/bands actually make quite a bit…not everyone…certainly not your mainstream acts either…but there are quite a few folks out there that value the power of words, and have something they genuinely want to communicate through the music they’re making. Those songs, probably aren’t the hits in their catalog…they’re what the kids call the ‘deep cuts’ you see…tunes that have perspective, a point of view, and something authentic to say, like Arda does on this song, if not indeed, this entire album as a whole as well. So “The Pebble In My Shoe” might not come out with as much fluidity in the lyrics & vocals, because the music plays a much more secondary role in that regard. Saying what Arda wanted to say, exactly how she wanted to say it, is the #1 goal here…beyond that, everything else is a bonus. That being said, “The Pebble In My Shoe” touches on one of the most important things I personally believe in, which is how indifferent we are to the plight of others that extend beyond our own family and friendships. In my opinion, it’s one of the most disgusting parts of human nature and one of the most inherent…it’s really an extension of ‘if something affects ME then it’s important’ – and that’s completely nasty to me. I’ve said it a thousand times on these pages of ours and I’ll continue to say it…I’m a pesky globalist…I believe that ALL PEOPLE, regardless of whether or not we’ve ever met, deserve dignity, deserve to be happy, deserve to be free, and so on & so forth. I don’t have a nationalistic bone in my body, even though I recognize that I live in a fantastic place called Canada…so for example…if some Canadian needed a kidney, and I had one I was willing to donate…just because you’re Canadian wouldn’t make you first in line for me – whomever needed it MOST would be, simple and plain…it wouldn’t matter to me which part of the world you lived in. For some, it does…and that’s pretty much gross to me, but whatever…it is what it is…I can’t change the way people think, only encourage it in a different direction. Plus…I digress…back to the music here I suppose…like I always say, any place a song sends you in your mind makes any resulting commentary valid. “The Pebble In My Shoe” is quite the tale when it comes right down to it…all-in-all, if I’m getting it right, it’s kind of about not being able to see the forest for all the trees, you know what I mean? We see the pain that directly inflicts us, like the pebble in our own shoes, without even so much as a single thought spared for the pain that others are in, or the perils they face. Arda’s created a brilliant story & narrative that centers around a chance encounter that extends into something much more meaningful. Bonus points to the backing vocals on this one, and the powerful use of the rhythm section in the music.
Don’t get me wrong…I like the bass-lines in “Upset The Apple Cart,” but I can’t separate the way they start out from the pattern found in the ‘Linus And Lucy’ themesong from the old Peanuts cartoon…not to worry folks…I’m sure that’ll just be me that feels that way. Not that I’m trying to trivialize anything – “Upset The Apple Cart” arguably takes this record into the toughest themes & lyricism you’ll find on the entire album…to say the very least, it ain’t gonna be the happiest tune you’re gonna hear this year. Nor should it be considering the content it takes on…for example: “Now I don’t want to spoil your dinner with stories of women getting abused/And genitalia mutilation in Sierra Leone/And if you don’t know where that place is/If you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about/Doesn’t mean what I’m saying is not true or false.” Believe it or not, that’s actually one of the sections of this song that is more gentle – the vast majority of the words on “Upset The Apple Cart” should pretty much have you holding your stomach, knowing that they are in fact, based entirely in truth and real-life scenarios. So…again…there’s a couple things to consider in listening…one being what I’ve already mentioned in how these songs serve as a vehicle for Arda’s words & that being the priority; think of it this way – generally speaking, the more important the message, the tougher the task becomes in compromising anything at all…as in, no one wants to say anything other than exactly what they want to say, regardless of whether or not the fluidity & flow come out more strained as a result…which I’d kinda argue is more noticeable in this particular tune. In saying that…what I’d consider is this – compromise CAN be a good thing. Think of it this way Arda…that catchiness we’re trading in for the messaging…if we were to somehow find a more middle ground – and the people out there had something they could either remember and/or sing along with…would that not theoretically, potentially spread the messages you’re sending out even further? I’m all for saying whatever we want to say exactly how we want to say things…and musically, I’m all about what serves the song best…in writing a review like this, I personally have to compromise in that it’s actually tougher to think about these tunes as songs first, when they’re actually pieces of sonic art. So I make my comments, here and there, about considering this or that when it comes to things on a musical-level, be it mix-wise or accessibility etc. etc. – and in MY mind, as I’m writing that stuff out, I almost think it’s completely pointless…because what’s being said, the lyricism, themes, and words at work here, are really what make these songs. Am I going to dispute what I hear lyrically in “Upset The Apple Cart?” Heck no! That’s where the art of it all comes in and Arda shines the brightest, being unafraid to cast light onto some very dark subjects most would never dare to tackle – and I applaud her for doing so. Does that make it any easier on the everyday listener to absorb in knowing that? Not so much really. Does that matter at all? Doubtful. I think Arda does what she does, the way she want to, and rightly so. There IS a point where you have to forget about what the masses may or may not think about something…there is a truth in art that you can only get to by shutting all of that out completely.
And then there’s “Monkeys” – which kind of puts me right on the other side of the fence in terms of what I was just debating here. There’s not a doubt in my mind that a track like “Monkeys” would be by definition, much more accessible than a song like “Upset The Apple Cart” would ever be in terms of the court of public opinion…and if you asked me which one I’d wanna listen to, I’d readily go with less accessibility in this particular scenario. I do think the music of “Monkeys” is pretty decent, and I love the solo…and that’s just about where it ends for me; my list is fairly short when it comes to this tune. I’m not saying that the hooks wouldn’t work for some of ya…they probably will – like I said, there’s ultimately more accessibility in “Monkeys” than there is in at least half of this set. We tend to trade a little bit of art where accessibility is concerned though…not just Arda, it’s a fairly standard thing that seems to happen with just about every one of us. That’s why indie is indie and the mainstream is the mainstream – ya feel me? I’m a big fan of not just Arda’s insightful lyricism, but how she approaches the writing itself…and really, “Monkeys” is still included in that praise, even though I wouldn’t put this up there on a list of my favorites from Arda & The Stolen Moon. If you read the words or listen closely, you’ll discover the uniqueness in the way her mind works and how clever she can be with her writing and observations…it’s genuinely to the point where she could easily write circles around a guy like me – Arda’s beyond intelligent, poetic, and vividly detailed/expressive in her songwriting. Sometimes when we’re really lucky, those thoughts we put into music make sense to us all…but more often than not, those thoughts are going to make much more sense to the person that wrote the song…same as any artist/band in that regard, and exactly why making most concept records in general, is 100% pointless. I’d say “Monkeys” is a bit tougher to follow along with Arda’s bouncing ball through the words this time around…and heading into a dreamlike scenario, coming right after what’s gotta be the record’s heaviest set of themes in “Upset The Apple Cart” right beforehand made it almost impossible for me to switch tracks. I’m not at all saying “Monkeys” isn’t a serious song…it is…but “Upset The Apple Cart” put me in the mood for something…serious-er? Make sense? I had trouble reconciling how the first verse and the second verse/story driving this song were connected…but that might not be the point to begin with, and I’m not even suggesting that “Monkeys” needed to do that…I’m probably saying that I needed it more than the song itself did. Good ideas, right degree of accessibility, even charming at times…just not the song for me personally…but as I like to remind ya from time to time, it could still be the song for YOU.
I felt like the degree of art in a record like Outsider In Perpetual Motion was extremely rewarding to listen to, and outright beneficial…it’s inspiring to listen to something that isn’t trying to be like anything else. “Fools & A Molina Moon” was a good ending to this record…I felt like it put it back on the rails after “Monkeys” for me personally, and also highlighted what’s been really stellar musicianship & instrumentation for a well-deserved moment in the finale here. No doubt, Arda and her words are always going to play a significant role, and she does here once again of course – but I’d probably be lyin’ to ya by omission if I didn’t say that the guitar really steals the show on “Fools & A Molina Moon.” This is where I feel like they’ve done a great job in doing what serves the song, as the first priority. I’m 100% confident that if Arda felt like penning lyrics to the full length of this track, she could have easily done exactly that & found space for her to fit…but sometimes…sometimes you just gotta let the music speak for itself, and I think that’s the approach that was destined to win out here for the final track. So you really get a great dose of the instrumentation that’s been making this record so lively & diverse with this last song…”Fools & A Molina Moon” adds that final punch to the poetic nature of this record by making a statement more through the music than it does the words this time around…one last bold more to end an ambitious, creative, inspiring, and even jarring record. In my world, we happily call that a memorable experience…Arda & The Stolen Moon crafted this set with real artistic depth, and significant substance. Maybe she’ll “never, ever go viral” – and maybe our world is in fact, more special because of that.
Find out more about Arda & The Stolen Moon at the official website: https://ardaandthestolenmoon.com
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