Past Waters/Fever Lives – Album Review
By Juliana Russell
Moñecho‘s debut, Past Waters/Fever Lives, is an album that cannot easily be classified, if at all. In a world where music is constantly churned out of the same molds to fit the expectations of the general, judgmental yet somewhat unassuming masses, it is unbelievably refreshing to experience an album such as this that has definite influences, but an exquisitely unique sound of its very own. Each song has a story to tell. Take a listen to this album, and experience a few snippets of an insightful man’s life, through a journey of unexpected, mysterious influences, and ubiquitous sounds.
The album begins with the melancholic and chilly “Oceans”. This track brings many vivid images to mind: imagine walking through a thick, but slowly dying forest, wispy effects sounding like wind whistling through the trees. A low, consistent, yet syncopated bass is complimented by sparse, treble percussion. There is enough of a steady rhythm to evoke the feeling of walking along a path, yet it is slightly unnerving and wavering, as if the path’s trajectory is somewhat unsure. The enveloping soundscape of constantly changing time signatures, percussive hits, and passion-stricken vocals adds to the overall immersive and ethereal feel of the song. Before interviewing this artist, I was convinced that he was using entirely acoustic instruments rather than samples—the sounds are incredibly authentic, and I am blown away by how coherent and tight the final product sounds.
“Gnosis”, the next track, has the same ambient, percussive sound as “Oceans”, though the overall atmosphere is slightly warmer, undoubtedly thanks to the major 7 arpeggios gently strummed in the treble register of the guitar. The dissonant melodic contour and harmonies give the effect of an almost-comfortable atmosphere where one would feel like falling asleep, but there is just enough variation to maintain interest. Powerful, moving percussion is scattered throughout, then breaks away, leaving a simple, heart-wrenching guitar melody that fades away.
Our next treat arrives in the form of an instrumental track called “of the Sea”. Drift away into the intimate, introspective ambience as you gaze into the starless night sky that this piece paints. Steadily pulsing, subtly electronic, beautifully delicate… This is my favorite track.
Nothing brings you out of a dreamy state like a pulsing rhythm with a deceptive downbeat. In “Green Sun”, there are so many things going on musically, yet it is all brilliantly and purposefully crafted, and fits together very nicely. One compositional technique that Moñecho has mastered and uses frequently in this album is introducing percussion effects—sometimes gradually, sometimes not—then adding layers upon layers upon layers, until it seems that there could not possibly be any more layers, and he adds a few more, then suddenly takes away all but one or two. It was so lovely to hear the beginning guitar riff return as a softer element in the background (comes back at around 4:10). This track is noticeably more repetitive than the others, but that aspect is unquestionably good. And while it is repetitive, he does not simply recycle material or overuse loops—whenever elements are repeated, there is always variation in accompaniment and instrumentation.
Take a breath of fresh air with “Torrent”. It begins with beautiful harmonies and light percussion—not an uncommon sonic combination for Moñecho, but certainly not unwelcome either. This song has a very powerfully cathartic feel—one can only imagine what story lies behind as the inspiration… About halfway through, the song drastically but somehow seamlessly changes time signatures, though the overall mood stays consistent and chaotic. I never thought I would describe something as unnervingly gorgeous, but the nearly acapella breakdown—just Moñecho’s vocals and very very sparse percussion—is just that. I cannot describe the amount of satisfaction I experienced at the final return to explosive percussion and almost-screaming vocals.
The next track, “Érase”, is reminiscent of the beautiful “of the Sea”, and has a lovely blend of many glass and metallic percussive instrumental sounds. The short guitar squeaks are interestingly accentuated—a sound that I should think most musicians would do their best to edit out, Moñecho highlights them even more, choosing for those slight imperfections to shine out and add an offbeat, unconventional beauty. This track is considerably more calm than some of his other songs, in terms of sonority variety and apparent number of different tracks, though there is that familiar dissonance and tension, which somewhat resolves at the most climactic parts, however never completely fades.
Take a break from the pulsing, pounding percussion in “Molih ta (majcho i molih)”. While there is some subtle percussion, the focus of this song is Moñecho’s heart-felt vocals. I honestly would have glossed over this track had I not spoken with the artist specifically about it. With such a tragic and heavy backstory that the lyrics hold, one can definitely feel the passionate connection he felt with the text. On Moñecho’s bandcamp site, there is a link to the lyrics (and English translation) of this song.
“Temple of Forgotten Saints” is another instrumental track that can best be described as transcendent. Like many of Moñecho’s previous pieces, this one is very heavy on percussion, but never in an overpowering way. His choice of percussion is always very purposeful—Moñecho is certainly an artist whose hard work and dedication really shows through in his final products.
Our final track, “Sister, Mother”, is eerie and haunting, yet feels very familiar, as it is similar in tone to the previous tracks. Three-quarters of the way through he takes it up a notch, suddenly sounding a bit more uplifting and hopeful. Characteristic of his use of percussion in the rest of the album, this track is punctuated in beautifully unexpected ways. While there are certainly patterns in his music, at no point was there a moment where I felt that it had become overly repetitive or predictable—this technique, as a composer, is very difficult to master.
All of the pieces in this album are absolutely gorgeous, elegant, and so deeply and comprehensively developed. Moñecho plunges into a place where most people would not dare venture into their psyches—this album feels very urgent, cathartic, and intensely expressive. Each piece’s climax holds so much power and raw emotion—listeners may suddenly find themselves in tears, without having the slightest idea why. That is simply the power that music holds over us. But being able to harness the passion one feels and successfully convey it through music—that is the power of a musical genius.
Listen to Moñecho’s ground-breaking album on bandcamp:
And check out Juliana Russell’s interview with Moñecho here.