Desert Ghosts


Like Moon Duo hopped up on pure wormwood extract, the Toronto-based improv space-rock outfit known as Moonwood have plucked another full-length jewel from the ether. Drawing on a cornucopia of worldly throwback psychedelic influences from the Middle East, Asia and Germany, Desert Ghosts is a relentless assault on your psyche, bound to blow your consciousness out the back of your skull and into a kaleidoscope of interdimensional possibilities …  the first half propelled by frontman Jakob Rehlinger’s incendiary guitar and Luca Capone’s impertinent drums, while the second half is more meditative and mystical, featuring more of bassist Matt Fava’s violin. Both sides are united by filtered synth drones and Jacqueline Noire’s mesmerizing vocals.

The Active Listener

Adding vocalist / synth wizard Jacqueline Noire in 2009 was just the beginning, with the band now sporting the impressive rhythm section of Matthew Fava (bass) and Luca Capone (drums) … Eastern themes winding their way in among the driving guitars and cosmic synth washes … Capone’s solid, metronomic beats (Neu! Fans, prick up your ears), provide the perfect backdrop for the band’s explorative expeditions, offering a precise framework that helps even the most improvised elements of the band’s music retain a structure that the listener can keep up with. And then there are the moments where the rhythm section drops out completely, leaving Noire’s wordless vocals and Fava’s serpentine violin parts to take centre stage, with spine-tingling results. There’s a perfect balance struck here between the explorative, the hypnotically repetitious, and a more structured play on conventional songcraft, which makes this a thoroughly unpredictable ride which challenges and rewards the listener in equal measure, while evoking the desolate, open stretches of its source material with apparent ease.

Chart Attack

“Trans Mojave Express” is basically a mission statement for Toronto’s Moonwood. As the name suggests, it’s essentially a combination of Kraftwerk and Hawkwind – a persistent motorik drum and bass groove layered with wide-open surf-fuzz guitars and synths. It’s not so much a headphones/ceiling-stare head trip as a stoned cruise across a plain with the top down and no real destination. It’s the kind of music that’s build for daydreams…

Live Reviews

Panic Manual

Starting things off were space rock/krautrock band Moonwood.  Formerly the solo project of Arachnidiscs‘ Jakob Rehlinger, the project has morphed into a full band devoted to bringing the Hawkwind-esque jams. Their set consisted of two songs, which for tonight at least, were entitled “Oliva Chow For Mayor” and “Rob Ford Not For Mayor.”  A fully satisfying set. 

Demo Magazine

Kicking off the night with a journey to the outskirts of the galaxy were Toronto space rock outfit Moonwood. Formed as a collaborative effort between Jakob Rehlinger and [Jacqueline Noire], the band’s krautrock-influenced catalogue was made all the stronger with the presence of a bassist and drummer, both of whom displayed an impressively high level of stamina as the band charged through a vast landscape of spiraling jams. The group’s performance served as a perfect accentuation of the tension one might expect to experience during the earliest moments of a show.

CBC Music

The massive, psychedelic jam of Moonwood. It was a little hard to tell what Moonwood were doing at first, but watching them build their wall of noise until it threatened to overtake us all was pretty impressive.

Grey Owl Point

The eclectic lineup began with Toronto krautrock purveyors Moonwood. Now a four-piece, they brought nearly 40 minutes of jams split into two “songs.” Starting with a track the vocalist called “Olivia Chow for Mayor” (it’s not actually called that), it was a full-on assault of keys, electronic flourishes, guitars and drums. Vocals added a touch of mystique to the amorphous music, which could change from minimalist to brutal at the drop of a hat. Concluding with a song not called “Rob Ford Not For Mayor” the band started the night on a groovy note.

The Strength of the Wolf is the Pack, and the Strength of the Pack is the Wolf

‘Awwww fuck, it’s New Weird Canada, party’s over, USA’ – this seemingly innocent shoutbox post from (on Bernardino Femminielli’s page, no less) might describe the state of new Canadian psychedelia extremely well. Moonwood is the psychedelic duo from Toronto and they straddle the line between slow psychedelic folk improvisations and more rainforest-like, sweaty impressions very well. In their own words: Desert blues, weird woodland folk, Cambodian funk, psychedelic soul, acoustic ragas, and free improv. My God, this is like 21st century psych aficionado’s Holy Grail. Is it or isn’t it? You decide. Personally, I’m digging this a lot. Recommended!” ~ Weed Temple

Moonwood strike an improvisational chord, and yet there is a deep level of intention pulsing here… The circuitous guitar style and eastern scales define much of how the rest of the music sounds, but what that might be changes from track to track. The playful early dawn of gamelan percussion, gongs, and hallowed vocal harmonies on “Invite Me To Stare Into The Darkness” is followed immediately a Cambodian psych jam in “Grafitti Blossoms”. The album jumps around quite a bit, and while a consistent theme of ritual and psychedelic encouragement is achieved, the strength of the record lies in the second half. It is as if the experimentalist menagerie of the first half were a warm up for the final charge into darkness unknown. 

“It Takes A Child To Raze A Village” begins this journey with some bayou-styled guitar bendings reminiscent of Jack Rose and Evan Caminiti at the same time. From here a steady pace is established, the acoustic engine sparkling with additions of eastern violins, (perhaps) ekatantari, and opium-soaked tambourine. It’s a soundtrack worthy of your journey across a forlorn landscape or the River Styx, except with eyes still full of wonder and optimism …. 

“Where The Flowers Blossom Red”, a monster psych folk track that begins somewhat unassumingly before launching into a vivid arrangement with the filters your mind puts up to keep you from the edge. This is the snake dance, and Moonwood is poised to coax your soul’s release in a Grails-esque bacchanalian purge…. This is a sultan’s nocturnal feast for the ears.”  ~ A Closer Listen

River Ghosts 

…the subtle layers and shimmering dynamics between the sparse folk elements might not be apparent on a first, glancing listen. Jakob Rehlinger… provides a stunning experimental guitar approach, a surprisingly “organic” electric guitar sound. The buzzing drones and scorched swells sound like they are produced by a cranked, clean amplifier, and the chiming reverb and tremolo naturally follow the signal’s original dynamic …. alternate between oscillating gourd flute and ringing, deceptively simple guitar lines. Alternate instrumentation and percussion enter the background from time to time, building the intensity and providing phantom noises: choirs, gurus, spiritual awakenings. I cannot emphasize enough the sparse composition of the elements throughout this side, rendering each set of simultaneous percussion, flute, and guitar swells more intense for each occurrence …. Over multiple listens, themes of deserted landscapes, rituals, and awakening vibe through the overtones and drones. Moonwood’s experimental folk might not grab you at first listen, but the textured sounds definitely reward multiple listens.” ~ Nicholas Zettel, Foxy Digitalis

Also the work of one man, this time Jakob Rehlinger, “River Ghosts” is a wholly enchanting album recorded under the name of Moonwood. Featuring such instruments as Bamboo Flute, Gongs, Ekatantri and percussion, along side the more obvious Guitar and bass, there is an eastern feel to the ten tracks on show here, something that is highlighted by a rich warm production. After a brief opening track, that sets the scene, The album gets into its stride with the quite magnificent “Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society”, a gorgeous slow moving piece, filled with drone and percussion, over which a Gourd Flute blows ever so sweetly, all you have to do is close your eyes. With tinkling bells and jangling percussion, “Bamboo Whiskey” is another brief aural delight, whilst “Drawing Water From a Poisoned Well” utilises a bowed guitar in its quest for sonic perfection, the piece containing some hypnotic guitar work. On side two the wonder continues, with for more long tracks in the same style, with the excellent “cholera in the Time of Love” being the pick of the bunch for me, whilst side closer “Blood Red Riverbanks” gets the silver medal for its epic grandeur. Taken as a whole, this is a sprawling and sumptuous treat that will carry you away to distant lands.” ~ Stephen Palmer,

Moonwood is multi-instrumentalist Jakob Rehlinger from Canada and he is a pretty prolific musican. Put out some great records in the past and River Ghosts is his freshest one. This is psych folk in it’s best sense. Layered, droney reverbed instruments, some hand drums, guitar and other things happens in the background. Stoned and jam like ethno drone folk. This sounds like Dead Can Dance without Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry… Highly recommended!”Dying For Bad Music

“Borne on the fever dreams of aquatic explorers, Moonwood journey fringeward through the fourth underworld. Their mesmerizing pursuit of exotic minimalism is peppered with gourd flutes, lap harps and ekatantari to give their forlorn excursions final entry within nature’s infinite drone. Music for water borne disease, indeed. Clear-blue vinyl for the pure of grip.” ~ Weird Canada

“The illusive “Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society” reveals exotic escapism through a minimalist approach of organic instruments filtered through freak-folk ambience and bleary serenity – a cinematic album.” ~ BlogTO

The Path 

“This is a split cassette with a live concert of Theo Angell on one side. Unfortunately I only know the Moonwood side, but it’s fucking magnificent! If you remember, the River Ghosts album was a mostly instrumental psych trip and The Path is now like a map for the strange terrain of River Ghosts. Highly recommended!”Dying For Bad Music

Coal Aberrations

“Meditative ritual-waves emanate freely from this ethnic-laced excursion into the disparate recesses of freeform sonic consciousness. The aggregation of psychic minds centered around Jakob Rehlinger coagulate and form Moonwood, which includes Weird Canada favorite Andrew MacGregor amongst a plethora of freaks from the North American underground. Droning psychedelic guitars, piercing bursts of free-jazz angularity, and elastic harmonies resonate within a tomb of religious reverb, committing grande sins against our modern digitalis. The trip lasts 70 minutes and is available in a limited edition of 25 lino block printed and hand-stamped discs. GRIPPED.” ~ Weird Canada

Moonwood (not to be mistaken with Moonweed – he who used to tickle synths for Gong and who currently does the honours with Hawkwind) is an extended project of one Jakob Rehlinger aka Babel. “Coal Aberrations”  (Arachnidiscs Recordings) features an international group of musicians on instruments ranging form rudimentary percussion through to cello and all manner of gizmos in between, The result is a heady and highly effective mixture of brooding, ambient minimalism, incantations, dirge and avant-drone music underpinned by a loose acid folk template. The improvised results are a simple yet powerful, not to mention wholly satisfying, collection of post-psychedelic and experimental pieces – 17 of them in fact over almost 70 transcendent and uplifting minutes and where the song titles are almost as evocative as the music (“The First Good Hangover of Spring”, “Desert Dusk Cactus Cult”, “I Rarely Leave This Apartment”). This is truly esoteric music for the mind and body and carries a definite seal of approval.” ~

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