Breathless: Blue Moon

Breathless are surely one of the most cruelly ignored groups of the 80s and 90s. Blue Moon arrives a full eight years after their last album, Between Happiness and Heartache, and is likely to be greeted with the same indifferent response. That would be a monumental injustice, for the record is a masterpiece – its deeply passionate romanticism flows with immense power through every one of its sixty minutes.

The group’s singer and keyboardist, Dominic Appleton, achieved a measure of notice with his vocals for the 4AD studio-based project This Mortal Coil. His lisping, forlorn voice is a crucial component of the Breathless sound. On this album it’s surrounded by an abundance of mesmeric instrumentation – strident guitars, eerie keyboards and harsh, clattering percussion.

The opening “Walk Down To The Water” is seven minutes of dramatic, windswept melancholy. In wistful, languorous cadences Appleton describes a condition of pure loss and regret, made tangible by restrained beats and gentle washes of sound. The song’s overwhelming sense of desolation is communicated not by sullen posturing but through a perfect alignment of emotion and gesture.

From here on, Breathless never put a foot wrong. “Magic Lamp” is a desperate invocation of sexual jealousy, its choppy rhythms erupting frantically into ecstatic currents of guitar. Moments such as this, and tracks like “Come Reassure Me” and the thunderous “No Answered Prayers”, recall the tragic luminosity of Joy Division or My Bloody Valentine; but Breathless’ epic vision is wholly their own, manifested in dense harmonic structures and Appleton’s harrowing meditations on desire, pain and confusion.

As if this weren’t enough, a limited edition bonus CD extends the album even further into abstraction and dissonance. “Moonstone” is fifty minutes of sinister rumbles and scrapings, with spare treated guitar and percussion underlining the sense of threat. Perfectly complementing the first CD’s rapt engagement with songform, “Moonstone” completes an emotionally devastating release.

(Originally published in The Sound Projector 7, 2000)

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