by Chris Familton
An Ear To The Earth is the follow-up to Mark Moldre’s debut solo album The Waiting Room, an accomplished set of folk-tinged indie rock songs that no doubt gave him the confidence and curiosity to dig deeper into his own songwriting and explore some of the more diverse corners of his musical influences that feature on this excellent album.
The impact of Moldre’s broader palette hits immediately on the opener Everything I Need, a stomping, clattering Tom Waits-ish jazz lurch with a glorious clarinet courtesy of Lee Hutchings. Beneath the old time exterior the song is an ode to a loved one, a declaration of contentment and one of the two most direct lyrical turns on the album. The other is Killer Anxiety, with its bright and uplifting calypso swing belying the song’s dark and honest subject matter concerning panic attacks.
Jamie Hutchings produced the album, and the two share a love of the dismantled and fragmented percussion that populates many of the songs. It gives them a wonderful organic, spacious and brittle feel, and they were very judicious in where they placed the ramshackle elements across the record. The other aspect of the record that stands out is Moldre’s voice; a maturing, world-weary instrument full of grain and character. He is now singing within the songs rather than pushing them along as he may have in the past, and it contributes to some beautiful and emotionally rich moments like the warm and dreamy Madeleine, the jazz croon of Last Card and the delicate chaos of the closer O, Dreamtime Blues. An Ear To The Earth is exactly what you want from an artist – a record that shows they’re stretching themselves, expanding their art and reverentially experimenting with the great art of songwriting.
this review was first published in The Drum Media and online on www.themusic.com.au