Courtney’s venture, Many Moons, is a gentle collection of driven acoustic tracks developed over a year-and-a-half. A reflection of time spent as a touring musician and the feelings of separation that it brings. Many Moons contains a rich, bright clarity relative to the sound of Courtney’s washed-out band Real Estate, particularly those early recordings. The production continuously evolved through the Many Moons sessions. Moving from studio to studio, over the year and a half it took to record the album, made it difficult to keep a consistent sound. However, Courtney expressed a starting point was getting the drums right, reminiscent of the warmth in early Rolling Stones and 70’s Motown, and achievable with the aid from producer Jarvis Tarveniere of Woods.
The method of writing songs with acoustic guitar can be a direct way of creating and conveying a message. Endless touring, new found fatherhood and maintaining relationships back home have laid the bedding for the lyrical content in Many Moons. Quizzing Courtney on his songwriting process, whether he’s been tempted by the buzz of Ableton, he simply replies “I write on acoustic, basically because it’s what sounds good in your house while you’re strumming.” In wanting to be able to play the songs live and have it sonically succeed, Courtney believed “It was a good goal to have in my head”. Although the skeleton of his music is born on the acoustic, the use of Logic in order to flesh out and arrange parts isn’t foreign to this consummate songwriter.
Many Moons holds a delightful peppering of orchestral arrangements. Take the single ‘Vestiges’. Strings swim in and out of the music, creating tension and releasing it appropriately. Courtney called upon his brother-in-law Harrison Joyce, an orchestra librarian (there is such a job!), to morph his ideas into a soundscape with players on cello, viola, violin and flute. Courtney’s original ideas, mapped out on Logic, were punched out on a tiny MIDI-keyboard lugged around on Real Estate’s tours. In regards to the rhythm section, Traveniere and Courtney would switch around on bass and drums in order to find the best flow for the song. Afterwards, a drummer would enter, Aaron Neveu from Woods, to practice for around an hour and then they’d hit record.
With the rise of Real Estate came their signature reverb-drenched, phased-out sound. Potentially every musician experiences, over time, a stagnation or rather a comfort in the tone, colour, inflection and so on. I imagine it’d be difficult for Billy Corgan to shy away from the fuzz of the Big Muff or for Tame Impala to ditch the flanger. The purity of playing acoustically can be a type of reset. Courtney admitted that it was kind of refreshing not to have effect pedals. “We’ve played one show so far. I have my tuner and I have my delay pedal. It’s simple. It’s easy to wrap my head around. We discussed the length of time it took to record the album, a year and half, and how it affected the recording process.” Courtney’s first session for Many Moons began in November 2013. “When you sit on a song for that long, you always find stuff you’d want to change”. Listening to the beautiful ‘Before We Begin’ and its sublime string parts, you wouldn’t believe it was originally a 7-minute jam. Courtney insisted it took a lot of work to get that song to what it is. “It’s nothing like it was at first. We edited the shit out of that song”.
Understandable, as time goes on, what may seem like a great idea one moment can appear cringe worthy the next. And a year and a half can play tricks on the mind. Still, the vibe in Many Moons is strong, consistent and no part sounds out of place. Even the flute jam in the title track, ‘Many Moons’! Was this lengthy style of recording new to Courtney? Apparently not! As his experiences with Real Estate have prepared him for variety of approaches. The self-titled Real Estate record was a bunch of demos recorded over a year. The second record, Days, was a sporadic six month studio caper with intense rehearsal prior. Regarding Atlas, Real Estate recorded the album in two weeks. Courtney professes that Many Moons is the opposite of that, “At first, we were unsure if we were even recording an album. It came into focus all the time”. Many Moons is a gem. It may not garner the popularity that Real Estate generates. However, it does hold an honesty that can sometimes be amiss in the indie-pop world. Oh, and it’s another great road-trip album!
Many Moons is out now via Domino. For more info, visit www.martincourtneyiv.com.