THE CRIMEA

More Square Moon Reviews

A few more reviews just to rub it in. Gone but, actually, in the end, just about OK. Hit more to read them all.

13509_largeLouder Than War say Square Moon is “daring, clever and storied lyrically” with an 8 out of 10.
It’s All Happening blog call it “the most perfect of parting gifts”.
Whilst StereoBoard are back to to say the band have “crafted a beautiful, bittersweet farewell”.
By Volume’s Adam Knott shows a masterage of English topping Davey’s and ascending in to Shakespearian. “It leaves a mark” is about the only bit I understood. That and the 9.3 / 10.
Sound Of Violence gives things a French twist, so grab a translation here. The 4.5 / 5 is more obvious.
And finally, 7 Bit Arcade wrap things up with just one more positive plug.



THE CRIMEA: SQUARE MOON – ALBUM REVIEW

The Crimea: Square Moon (Alcopop Records! and Lazy Acre)
CD/ LP/ DL
Out now
8/10

John Peel favourites The Crimea return after a long hiatus with their third LP Square Moon for which lead singer and guitarist Davy MacManus produces lyrics like the scripts of short films set to the most ridiculously elegant music writes RobMcNamara.

The clouds gradually disperse from the sky outside this reviewer’s window as opener Petals Open When Reached By Sunlight begins, gently whispering its sweet beauty and drawing in the stragglers from the mid-morning slump. Keyboards and phased vocals build a feeling of expectation that is met and duly satisfied several times over 22 tracks later.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not a fan of gentle heartfelt acoustic pop, the dominant mood here, the luscious arrangements and dripping melodies will have you seduced in seconds – no matter what your disposition. Drawing inspiration from the most polarised of sources, The Crimea can boast of making a noise all of their own that’s wrapped in the most gorgeous and unique of packages.

If I See My Reflection One More Time is a huge, burgeoning, celebratory sound borne out of an initially delicate vocal and lovely lyrical sentiment. You Never Smile For The Camera with its clipped guitar sound, gentle bobbing melody and sumptuous chord changes is as rocky as it gets, while How To Make You Laugh is more downbeat and subtle before bounding into a lively chorus.

Beehive Mind’s off tune charm is intriguing from the sampled film dialogue – a common theme – to the strained guitar notes married to a circling piano riff, it works to great effect. Black Belt in Breaking Hearts may lay claim to its place at the albums heart, the signature song – a moving masterpiece.

Shredder is stunning. It features swirling piano (a constant and welcome embellishment throughout), lyrics that conjure the most wonderful and weird images and perfect strings.

As with all good records, though, imperfection looms and there are some tracks that simply don’t work – this is a double album after all. Road To Damascus is a temporary blip while Lupara Bianca is a tired sea shanty that unfortunately leans too far in the direction of current media darlings and commercial monsters Mumford and Sons, although not nearly as mundane.

However, there is so much to enjoy on the record that you cannot but take a journey through it and temporarily stop to admire the beauty along with the way.

Square Moon is daring, clever and storied lyrically – not for a moment are you bothered by cliche. Musically it can be angry at times, but mostly emotional and reflective while always being brilliantly eclectic. It’s got shades of epic pop (Mid Air Collisions and We Stand Alone), folk (Last Plane to Saigon) and classical with the briefest touches of electronica (Petals Open When Reached By Sunlight and Lovers Of The Disappeared) This an album years in the making but worth every second it took to manifest.

The Crimea can be found at their website and at their Twitter, MySpace and SoundCloud pages.

Review by Rob McNamara for Louder Than War, 2nd August 2013.
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The Crimea: Square Moon (29th July // Alcopop! Records)

Let’s get this clear now; The Crimea are not a normal band, and new album Square Moon is not a normal album. The 22 song double-album is the Camden four piece’s third offering, and has been five years in the making. But, unfortunately for us, it looks like the release, along with the one off gig at Camden Jazz Café on 30th July, will be the last hurrah from The Crimea. Lead singer Davey MacManus, who previously fronted The Crocketts, will be moving to South Africa to set up an orphanage.

Usually, this reason alone for a band splitting would be enough to get some press coverage. But Square Moon should not need any extra help. It is a terrific, evocative effort that revels in the freedom of having escaped the shackles of a major label (and, indeed, has been released on the awesome Alcopop! Records).

Album opener Petals Open When Reached By Sunlight is a slow but uplifting affair that immediately resonates with the lyrics ‘Believe in me, I believe in you. Try to stay alive. The ghost of me, the ghost of you. Walking side by side. You can cry all night, you can cry all night. The sun’s still going to come up in the morning time’.

Square Moon features the piano throughout, with the addition of strings in places to provide an uplifting spine to the album. Jellyfish strikes the listener as perhaps the most likely of the collection that could be used as a standalone single, but the whole album runs extremely smoothly from start to finish, all the more impressive considering it clocks in around a whopping 90 minutes.

Judas Loves You is another highlight, with MacManus’s elegant vocals being shadowed by the shimmering piano and cutting guitar, followed by the bouncing beautifulness of Millionaire.

The Crimea are not afraid to do things differently. Second album Secrets of the Witching Hour was released as a free download in 2007, preceding the trend that is often attributed to being initiated by Radiohead. This is now the end of the road for The Crimea, and Davey MacManus will soon be helping to improve the lives of many in South Africa, but they have left us with the most perfect of parting gifts. Square Moon is an excellent album; farewell The Crimea.

Review from It’s All Happening, 30th July 2013.
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The Crimea – Square Moon (Album Review)

If sorry seems to be the hardest word, then goodbye must be a close second. Unless you’re the Crimea, that is. With ‘Square Moon’, the sprawling double album that will serve as the band’s swan song, they’ve crafted a beautiful, bittersweet farewell.

Led by Davey Macmanus – the man who was, for a brief time, the frontman of one of the best live bands in the UK, the Crocketts – the Crimea never quite scaled the heights expected of them, for reasons that remain a mystery.

Their two previous records, ‘Tragedy Rocks’ and ‘Secrets Of The Witching Hour’, met with troubling indifference given their quality, and while the free release of ‘Secrets…’ secured a spot in the vanguard of the digital revolution, the next step proved elusive.

If there’s any justice, ‘Square Moon’ will be picked up by music fans across the board. Across 22 tracks the band dabble in ethereal pop, haunting melancholia and hook-filled indie, with Macmanus’ abstract, often witty lyrics and idiosyncratic delivery the string that binds them together.

“Believe in me, I believe in you. Try to stay alive,” he sings as the mournful Petals Open When Reached By Sunlight opens the record, meshing distant vocals with strings. Last Plane Out Of Saigon, with its dancing piano lead, follows and provides a perfect riposte to the solemn first track, wrapping Macmanus’ fear of loneliness in a bright pop jacket.

The Crimea are able to repeat the trick throughout. Jellyfish, If I See My Reflection One More Time, Beehive Mind, Mid Air Collisions and Millionaire all balance Macmanus’ reflective, desolate words with endearing compositions. ‘Square Moon’ is a remarkably cohesive effort and skirts the thorny issue of the double album with ease, dispensing with drastic tonal changes in favour of a slate of arresting songs.

The band have now gone their separate ways, with Macmanus in South Africa starting up a children’s home, and ‘Square Moon’ is a fitting epitaph. It’s a big bastard – clocking in at 90 minutes – but you’ve got the rest of your life to absorb it, which is a treat. So long, then, and thanks for all the tunes.

Review by Huw Baines for StereoBoard, 1st August 2013.
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Square Moon
The Crimea

July 29, 2013 – Alcopop
9.3

They twisted into the room on a current of charming, ever-so-mildly cryptic observations, softly spoken but sure-footed, moments of real, stunning what-the-fuck punctuating an electric sort of calm, a hand across a shoulder, a slight delay on the look-away-now, and where did you get? Sometimes other things pull the star-crossed into different universes. How gutting can a goodbye feel? In flickers of over-eager nostalgia, and alternative timelines piling up, what when the goodbye is part of the hello, and all of a sudden a book is closed? Hold it dear and hope that what it counts for stays simple? Pull them back and say, hey, don’t go?

That I don’t write for Rolling Stone affords me the privilege of admitting I was oblivious to The Crimea until July 2013. How this is the case remains a mystery to me. But I’d like to write from this position of ignorance because it’s the real one that I hold; it’s how I heard Square Moon and it’s how I’ll continue to hear it even after I venture backwards and learn my way around the relationship’s ugly or boring or unexpected sides. There will be no forwards momentum to this liaison, as Davey MacManus drops his songwriting pen in a sharp items bag and boards a plane to South Africa to help set up an orphanage for poor children.

The entrance sets the tone: disarming, unassuming and undeniably enticing. But “Petals open when reached by sunlight” is not the album, its mellow ambience and calm reflections doing nothing to suggest its anomalous status, before a burst of muffled funfair gives way to the sprinkles that shuffle in “Last plane out of Saigon”. This is the album’s soul, here: a rhythmically alluring pop song with a hundred tender quips and one solemn riddle. “Keep travelling east so it never gets dark; follow your heart / wherever the damn thing goes / I’m sorry / Just don’t wanna be alone.”

Square Moon follows its own advice and the sky stays true blue, though the ominous Latin chants on “Witches Broom” test that promise aesthetically. And rarely do The Crimea feel joyous; “You never smile for the camera”’s heart-stoppingly blunt chorus – “You were always the brightest kid in school / Alison, Alison, Alison / God knows what they did to you” – is as fist-clenching as they come, but still impossible to rally. It’s nothing of an anti-climax; the result is a tempered album which buzzes with feeling but never alienates or gives too much away.

That buzz takes many forms, from Nada Surf to Paul Simon, from King Blues-style spoken-word to Bright Eyes and from The Format to some other corner. But the rise and fall, lifted and dropped by violins, ambience, rhythm shifts, vocal harmonies and keys, belies a more delicate construction than those crude reference points, which fleet and flicker with frequency. Through falling in love with this eclectic masterpiece, I’ve forgotten to note down the names of fifteen more influences because I was carried away by the next beautiful passage or motif. Square Moon is positively not the product of anything but artistic fluidity; it’s too big, too quick to move on, too blissfully unaware of its own floating textures.

“I played the starving peasant / I played Marie Antoinette / The snow, our skin, like porcelain / You promised me the end,” – the final whisper in the ear and the last barb to grasp at comes cloaked much like what it closes, neither declaratory nor opaque, neither giving nor entirely concealed. A Stars-like vocal trade-off amid trembling, light percussion drifts off into the ambient patter of just-audible keys, and The Crimea are gone. It leaves a mark; Square Moon is not the album you jump to restart once it’s finished, but it is one that, after a few minutes of reflection, you almost need to. When the charge wears out, I’ll wander backwards and recap things I never saw; for the time being, it’s the long goodbye on loop.

Review by Adam Knott for By Volume’s, 30th July 2013.
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The Crimea
Square Moon

Date de sortie : 29.07.2013
Label : Alcopop! Records/Lazy Acre Records
4.5 / 5

La fin de The Crimea a donc sonné. Le chanteur Davey McManus ayant décidé de quitter la scène musicale pour fonder un orphelinat à Diepsloot en Afrique du Sud, les londoniens ont joué un ultime concert dans leur ville d’origine le 30 juillet dernier avant de dissoudre le groupe et marquer ainsi la fin de onze années de carrière. La veille sortait Square Moon, le troisième et rien de moins qu’un double album comme cadeau d’adieu à des fans qui attendaient un grand retour depuis 2007. Si l’on va regretter cette formation de musiciens talentueux, cet ultime voyage épique de vingt-deux pépites de pop-folk audacieuses et musicalement intelligentes aura de quoi sucrer l’amertume de la nouvelle.

On dit souvent qu’un voyage s’entreprend comme une nouvelle relation : il faut se préparer à vivre des chose nouvelles, des hauts comme des bas, des moments intenses, savoir se laisser surprendre et en revenir un peu différent. Square Moon est un délicat séducteur qui utilise l’écriture raffinée du songwriter McManus comme approche. Il réussit à progressivement venir courtiser les sentiments à grands renforts d’envolées lyriques et de pianos désolés, sous couvert d’une pop passionnée, qui finalement respire l’insouciance.

Petals Open When Reached By Sunlight esquisse les premières touches symphoniques d’un tableau printanier, qui s’ouvre avec sensibilité sur la poésie épurée développée tout au long de l’album. Claviers et chant s’immiscent comme un chuchotement timide à l’oreille et tendent la main comme une invitation à suivre l’onde des vingt-deux pistes.
Semblable à la mélancolie qu’inspire la musique d’un vieux carrousel, Last Plane Out Of Saigon est une contemplation de la solitude. Paradoxalement, une voix angélique accompagne le chanteur et supplie en chœur un « be my lover » qui ne trouve pas de réponse au fil de la mélodie magnifiquement composée et douloureusement poignante. If I See My Reflection One More Time inonde avec affirmation une joie de vivre par un lyrisme mélodique et vocal éclaboussant de complexité et d’intelligence, en rupture avec un piano solitaire et à fleur de peau qui contraste en sensibilité et en émotion.
You Never Smile For The Camera s’installe dans un son plus rock rétro où se mêlent claviers et distorsions de guitare tandis que How To Make You Laugh allie un refrain bondissant et populaire à des couplets tout en subtilités harmoniques.

Le piano frénétique de Shredder embarque des images oscillant entre l’étrange et le merveilleux dans un tourbillon d’arrangements symphoniques parfaits et simplement envoutants, conduisant à la joyeuse ruche de Beehive Mind puis à la ballade folk teintée à l’harmonica et barbouillé d’un refrain à la réjouissance contagieuse de Mid Air Collisions. We Stand Alone et Black Belt In Breaking Hearts sonnent comme des hymnes retentissants de l’énergie la plus rock que l’album a à offrir, alors que Judas Loves You use de l’imagerie religieuse dans des paroles déchirantes et une composition des plus puissante.
La piste finale Lupara Bianca termine la traversée à l’image de ce qu’elle a été depuis le début de l’album : aussi lyrique dans sa narration que dans l’instrumentalisation. Un aspect cinématographique imprévisible d’un bout à l’autre tout en restant dans une habile et pénétrante simplicité.

Il y a tant de choses à aimer dans Square Moon. Ce qui fonctionne le fait à merveille, et même si inévitablement quelques morceaux restent quelque peu dans le creux de la vague (Road To Damascus, Millionaire) l’ensemble paraît être conçu d’un bloc, composé de fragments aux multiples facettes. Brillamment éclectique, voguant entre la pop épique, rappelant parfois les débuts du rock progressif (Petals Open When Reached By Sunlight et Mid Air Collisions), la folk (Beehive Mind) en passant par des arrangements symphoniques somptueux et au pop-rock électrisant, comme autant de nuances d’une même teinte. Une traversée savoureuse, ondulant d’une émotion à une autre sans violences ni de tsunami mais qui laisse quelque part une empreinte indélébile.

Review by Clémentine Barraban for Sound Of Violence, 9th August 2013.
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The Crimea – Square Moon

Summer’s ending, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t go out without its own appropriate soundtrack. As festival blog posts are wrapped up and a new school year is prepared for, it’s hard to not already feel nostalgic for the summer past — and if cheerful anthems to being young, wild, and free don’t satisfy your emotional needs as you deal with the fact that summer’s mostly over, The Crimea’s new double album – largely suitable for any Sofia Coppola film pre-’Bling Ring’ – Square Moon is remarkably whole.

Admittedly, the first three tracks of disc one – ‘Petals Open When Reached by Sunlight‘, ‘Last Plane out of Saigon‘ and ‘Jellyfish‘ – are in the danger of passing by in a blur of formless wistful melancholics if your tastes don’t generally lean toward that particular flavor of music. But ‘Listen to Seashells They Know Everything‘ is a surprising jerk into morose bass, longing vocals, and the blending of hope and reluctance.

The songwriting is impeccable — only proven further by following tracks ‘If I See My Reflection One More Time‘ (sounds that build up naturally), and ‘The Only Living Boy and Girl‘ (the narration is, amazingly, far from embarrassing, as it can so easily be).

‘You Never Smile for the Camera‘, ‘How to Make You Laugh‘ and ‘Witch’s Broom‘ are a short shift into an island-vacation-friendly, decidedly more cheerful atmosphere – one that’s refreshing enough to keep the album as a whole from sagging.

‘Shredder‘ is sinister — preparing you for the final track of disc one, ‘Road to Damascus‘, which is underwhelming despite its melancholy and layered sounds. But ‘Beehive Mind‘ kicks in, bringing in honey-sweet lyrics that pleasantly surprise, priming you for what might be one of the best song of side two; ‘Mid Air Collisions‘ pushes and pulls at just the right times, with saccharine, Conor Oberst-esque vocals accompanied by flowing piano and harmonica. The riffs of ‘We Stand Alone’ is oddly reminiscent of Sonic Youth at parts, suggesting that The Crimea may have a wider pool of influences than assumed.

Disc 2 is largely much more cheerful than Disc 1. Even ‘Lovers of the Disappeared‘ (an echo of musicals), ‘Shoelaces‘ (aching and climbing), and ‘Black Belt in Breaking Hearts‘ (studded with 80s-throwback keyboards) is less sad than most of the tracks in the latter. ‘Judas Loves You‘ is startlingly different from anything else in the entire double album. Basslines and sinister seduction paves the way for a chorus that keeps consistency, preventing the track from feeling like a random afterthought. It’s a proof of songwriting skill and experience, one that proves to be quite delectable.

‘Millionaire‘ is playful and feel-good, with a rhythm that’s easy and undaunting to nod along to. ‘Goldmine‘ is nearly experimental — swinging between the feel of ‘Judas Loves You‘ and ‘How to Make You Laugh‘ with highlights that go as close to explosive as they can. ‘Mountain of Strange’ carries on this arc, and ‘Lupara Bianca‘ brings everything to a neat close.

Each track in Square Moon is a variety of what is, essentially, consistent. But with shifts and alternatives, honesty and flavor, it’s kept from being offensive or dull. Skill is undeniable even if there is a difference in taste between the artist and the audience, which The Crimea shows perfectly.

Review by Sumin for 7 Bit Arcade, 12th August 2013.
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