by Philip Moss
Born in Glasgow – out of the mind of acclaimed Scottish songwriter and self-confessed nighthawk, Aidan Moffat – Aux Pieds de la Nuit is a simply breathtaking body of work. And it certainly ranks as one of the year’s most exciting and unexpected releases thus far.
Mickey Mouse Strut grows from slow, shuffling, sampled jazz drums. Recalling the cinematic ambience of Twin Peaks, it meanders, but never feels stagnated – effortlessly growing into sheets of dusky brass and the purring of crickets. The Prairie continues out of the ebb and flow of the opener, before breaking into the operatic wails of Words of Wonder. Pieced together electronically, Aux Pieds de la Nuit still manages to be deeply alluring – somehow still feeling real and not lacking of the human touch.
Theme from is the most baleful cut – sliding from yet more sinister wails into distorted drums and tense strings that draws you in like a knife to the throat with its rhythmic pull. Shirley Jackson on Drums bears melodic, delicate pianos, which still manage to feel foreboding, and is somewhat akin to the soundscape work of This Mortal Coil.
Despite the record being wordless, Moffat, who is known for the grimy realism of his lyrics, still manages to tell stories here through the compositions’ titles. References to a letter sent by Edgar Allen Poe to a fan after finding out his wife was ill is referenced on Long Intervals of Horrible Sanity – and it is certainly deserving of the reference to the Master of Macabre. While Mickey Mouse Strut adds a little light and sense of tongue in cheek humour to proceedings on, what is, a heavy collection, as does the ironically titled Words of Wonder.
To be in the correct mindset for such a record is essential. This isn’t one to stick on while out picnicking with the family, or on a romantic drive. It’s a collection that is at times patient and at others wildly erratic, but that requires the same patience and close attention to fully allow it to unfurl its magic. Recorded in the dead of night, it almost feels wrong to experience it before dusk. Moffat’s insomnia, from which it was born, looms large and heavy throughout.
The first of three more planned Moffat releases over the coming months, this a departure from what we expect from the Scottish songwriter. But it’s a departure that absolutely must be welcomed with open arms, ears and mind.
Secret Meeting score: 90