When I was a teenager, much to my parents’ chagrin, I painted my bedroom walls black. To contrast the blackness, I strung up Christmas lights around the room and installed a rainbow colored ceiling fan- each of it’s blades was a different color. I discovered that while the colors of the spinning blades were indistinguishable when the fan was on, by turning on a mini strobe light, each strobe flash would freeze an individual blade color, creating a really groovy effect. I spent many of my nights stoned, laying on my floor and listening to music while staring up at the stroboscopic rainbow spinning above me. Shana Cleveland’s sophomore solo effort, Night of The Worm Moon, feels like those nights.
Shana Cleveland is best known as the guitar-shredding, dance-party leading frontwoman of La Luz. On Night of The Worm Moon, released April 5th on Hardly Art Records, she leaves La Luz’s surf behind and ventures into space. The album was recorded during a rare solar eclipse, and was inspired in part by one of Shana’s musical idols, the Afro-futurist visionary Sun Ra- the album’s title is a nod to his 1970 release Night of the Purple Moon). Night of The Worm Moon’s album art also sets the scene for a celestial journey- colorful, psychedelic illustrations of moon phases, planets, and a pink worm snaking its way across a vibrant landscape.
Worm Moon’s 10 tracks are folk focused dream pop, with Shana’s voice at the forefront. The album also features the talents of several of Shana’s past collaborators- multi-instrumentalist Will Sprott of Shannon & the Clams, original La Luz bassist Abbey Blackwell, Goss, pedal steel player Olie Eshelman, and Kristian Garrard, who drummed on Cleveland’s previous solo effort (with then-backing band The Sandcastles), 2011’s Oh Man, Cover the Ground.
The album opens with “Don’t Let Me Sleep”, a hazy dreamscape with Shana’s beautiful voice floating just above the strum of the guitar, carrying the track along at a mellow and near meditative pace. It’s an ethereal, encompassing opener, and one of the album’s best tracks.
The album’s title track, “Night of the Worm Moon”, is a spooky tale of being watched and preyed open by a monster living in the wall- there is something truly creepy about the track, marked by menacing strings and lyrical imagery like “I watch you breathe/ You never noticed me at all/ And when I come for you/ I’ll freeze your blood/ You can’t call and you can’t run”. It’s fun and clever and frightening.
There’s clearly a dark undercurrent running through Worm Moon, a sort of aching uncertainty and loneliness which Shana’s voice embodies perfectly. Isolation is a common lyrical theme throughout the album, as well as lost or unattainable loves. You can easily imagine tumbleweeds blowing across a dark desert night during “Face Of The Sun”, or hear cicadas singing in the background of “Invisible When The Sun Leaves”. “In Another Realm” is heartachingly beautiful, with its swelling strings and folk guitar- when Shana sings the closing lines “I’ll never know what we’re here for/ But I can tell/ I’m gonna love you more/ Than anyone has ever loved before” I’m nearly moved to tears.
Tucked into Worm Moon’s track listing are two instrumental tracks. “Castle Milk” and “Solar Creep” are more than mere interludes or time-fillers, with the former a folksy baroque tune and the latter a dark waltz. The tracks highlight Shana’s impressive guitar work, and allow the album’s production to really shine- both tracks sound as though Shana is right here in the same room, playing just for me.
Night of The Worm Moon is a beautifully melancholy sci-fi fever dream. Much like space itself, there’s a beauty and depth which coexists with the dark and unknown. It’s the perfect soundtrack for an orbit around the moon, a long night drive, or staring at your ceiling fan under a strobe light.
Night of The Worm Moon is available now on Hardly Art records.
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