It can take a while to write an album review – not the writing itself, necessarily, but the listening. One listen to the album is not sufficient, ever. Nor is two. It’s also not appropriate to play the album in the background, not when there are lyrics involved. And certainly not when things get interesting almost immediately and there is absolutely no way that you can not stop what you’re doing and listen.
In the case of Fever Dreams, the new album from northern New South Wales singer-songwriter Mark Moldre, I made that attempt to play it in the background. Conscious that the album had been out for a few days, and wanting to write the review amidst ticking off other things on the great to-do list of life, I put it on then started addressing that to-do list. Started being the appropriate verb because the other activities were not finished, and Fever Dreams is the reason why.
This album can’t be described in a straightforward way, even if Apple Music calls it ‘alternative folk’. It’s not folk, really; it’s not country, either, or rock. That is, it’s not exclusively those things. It is all those things, and more, and has been described as ‘genre-hopping sonic bedlam, fractured Americana-hued ballads, jazz-tinged standards, old-school Jungle Book style reggae and ramshackle/rollicking noir blues’. Of course, saying it’s not one thing or another can make it sound like it’s all over the place. But it is not. It is arresting, compelling and brilliant. Lyrically, it is rich and rewarding. Stylistically, musically, it takes the listener on an exhilarating journey that has been ably handled by producer Jamie Hutchings, which will be no surprise to fans of his band Bluebottle Kiss, itself an exercise in compelling music that could not be easily labelled.
So the short message is this: Fever Dreams can’t be easily explained, nor can it be easily ignored. For the country music audience (and this is a country music website, after all), it is rich in storytelling and steeped in authenticity, elements that appear in all great country music. But it’s not country, as previously mentioned. It’s many different wonderful things, all of them worth investigating – just be prepared to devote your time and attention to this singular work, and push all thoughts of doing other things aside. You won’t regret it. Indeed, as a certain Australian music industry personality might say, you’ll be doing yourself a favour.
Fever Dreams is out now on Yellow Moon Records.