Moontribe, the first record by a mysterious artist who goes by the same moniker, opens with an insistent, high-pitched bleep, the pace of which steadily quickens until it reaches anxious alarm. Percussion quickly enters the mix, followed by distant, primal yelps and moans; the whole thing creates a sense of deep uneasiness. It’s a fitting start to Moontribe’s heady, psychedelic record, where African rhythms, meandering electric organs, and tribal chants immerse the listener in what feels like some sort of esoteric outer space ritual.
According to the group’s label, the Tel Aviv-based Fortuna Records, the album was submitted on an unmarked two-inch tape—no names, no dates—and one of the songs is “a snake-charming voodoo ritual, in which Moontribe is the Shaman.” All that is known for sure is that the whole album was recorded in a single, unedited session by about a dozen musicians.
Perhaps that’s the reason for the record’s sense of spontaneity: melodies fade out and then reappear, distant voices weave their way in and out of the mix, and tracks are suddenly punctuated by skittering organs. But the album feels anything but haphazard; instead, it marches purposefully forward, as if everyone involved is under the same trance.
While the album could be filed comfortably next to releases from experimental labels like Canada’s Multi Culti, Brazil’s Voodoohop, or Argentina’s ZZK, its swirling melodies seem directly rooted in the sounds of the Middle East and North Africa. When “Bottles” picks up its pace, for example, it feels like a psychedelic take on the mesmerizing percussion grooves of Sudan’s Abu Obaida Hassan; album standout “Osmium” could be a futuristic interpretation of Abdel Gadir Salim’s desert blues. The seven tracks on Moontribe make for a captivating, trippy record—ethereal, yet firmly rooted in our world, and its timeless rituals.