REVIEW: Gilligan Moss - Ceremonial

Kelly Kirwan

If you could see anyone in concert, past or present, who would it be?

It’s my go-to question, because (as we could guess) I love music, and for practical purposes, it beats doling out the pirate’s plank of small-talk, which would be: "so…what do you like to do (and so forth)?" The awkward, getting-to-know-you chit-chat is always a cloudy field to navigate, but worth it when there’s an interest. And, when it comes to the Chi-town raised, New York-based producer, Gilligan Moss, there is definitely an interest.

Despite remixing for Sia and Glass Animals (who he’ll be touring with this year), there’s still that uncertain, “we’re newly dating” veil surrounding Moss. He released the track “Choreograph” online in 2013, which started the hype, and then ghosted until this summer when he dropped his Ceremonial EP on AMF. Its four tracks are a funky array of off-beat electronica, with some deep and brooding undertones that collectively give us enough insight as to who Moss’s dream lineup might be: Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, The Beatles (during their transcendental-meditating, India-traipsing years, of course)...

Because, while Ceremonial stands as Moss’s unique creation, the influence and sonic styles of the artists above have definitely accented his material. In an interview with Clash, Moss explained that he wanted his EP’s titular track to capture David Byrne’s “wild preacher” quality (cue the oversized suits). "Ceremonial" draws you in with slow bass beats that bleed into drawn-out timbres, ultimately exploding into a series of synths and polyrhythms. The kind of “ceremony” this song evokes feels both modern and Dionysian—incoherent, choir-like chants are interlaced with frenzied beats—and you feel like the sound waves may start wafting through the room in technicolor.

Then there’s "It Feels Right," the magnetic, piano-interluding, consistently-percussive track whose back-of-the-throat vocals pull you in with, “Do you want me / How I should be / You can stop me / All at once…” It’s a quick-footed song, and downright groovy, but if you listen closely you’ll realize there’s a forlorn story of unresolved infatuation being told. Moss said he envisioned an almost lovesick “elephant man” type figure as the singing persona, and with this we realize the light, feminine chorus of “It Felt Right” feels more like a taunt then a confirmation. It’s all slightly twisted and insanely catchy, and shows Moss’s appreciation for the showmanship that was so entwined in the glam rock of yore.

Much of the EP was sketched out as Moss straddled the corporate world, filling the dead hours of his commute with blueprints for songs like “Choreograph” (which was written over a period of four months). This level of detail is evident on Ceremonial, which cements Moss as not only an up-and-coming producer, but as a storyteller. The manipulated audio and eclectic sampling show Moss is all over the map in his approach to music, but in the best way possible.

And from the reaction of fans and press to Ceremonial, we can tell this won’t be a fling.