When I reviewed the self-titled debut EP from self-described “space rock” foursome MoonStriker last year, I was struck by how much potential the band displayed They really do have all the makings of a breakout success story-to-be. Their sound is equally unique and accessible, a heady mix of prog, psychedelia and pop alternative, with shades of funk and R&B liberally sprinkled throughout.
Now, MoonStriker is back with a new EP called “Axis Mundi,” which finds the band simultaneously cementing their signature style and exploring another side of it. This EP sees MoonStriker shifting into a more meditative mode. Where the last EP was all about energy and agility, “Axis Mundi” tempers both of those elements with an ethereal, even romantic (in a way), contemplative quality.
The band seems less interested in head-bobbing, toe-tapping danceability this time, and more focused on conjuring a sense of atmosphere that is truly trippy without being turgid or torrid (as is so often an all-too-easy-trap to fall into for bands trying to blend ambient textures with math-rock riffage).
Cody Bolt’s bass-playing is more restrained this time out, dialing those aforementioned shades of funk back a bit. Rather than competing with one another, as they did previously, the guitar and bass lines now slickly pirouette around one another in an interweaving ballet of balance and seduction. Colin Tevis’ jazzy, scattershot drumming joins in the strings’ woozy waltz more often than simply providing a background rhythm for it.
On that note, it’d be an egregious oversight to not acknowledge that it is Ethan Sharp’s guitar work which once again steals the show with shameless authority (though Joel Demartino’s high-pitched but soulful-instead-of-shrill vocal style certainly gives Sharp a run for his money). It’s technically dazzling, though it also feels more organic this outing, less boastful.
Ultimately, “Axis Mundi” may actually work best as a companion piece to “MoonStriker,” rather than as something separate entirely. It feels like the dark side to that earlier EP’s light. It’ll be interesting to see where MoonStriker goes from here. Hopefully, a full-length LP isn’t too far away. If so, the band might do well to dividing such a release up into an equal amount of tracks that are more “meditative” and tracks that are more “danceable.” I’d hate to see the former entirely supplant the latter.
In any case, armed with outstanding technical flash, super-polished production, a surprising amount of pop-friendly catchiness and a soaring, fun, light-on-its-feet sound that sets the band apart from many of its denser space-rock peers, MoonStriker seems to have everything in its arsenal needed to be the Pennsylvania underground’s next big thing.
Heeds these words: Follow the wiggling laser-lines that emanate from the band’s instruments as they sonically shoot like lighning into tomorrow, for the future this band is racing toward appears nuclear/neon bright indeed.
Choice cuts: “Trailblazer,” “Desieratum”