Lu­nas re­veal new lay­ers of won­der – and an ABBA cover – on their third.

Prog - - The Musical Box - RAchEL MAnn

Luna Rossa’s third re­lease takes its ti­tle from the Latin for Deadly Night­shade, aka Bel­ladonna. The plant has been used as a medicine, a poi­son, and as the means for witches to trans­form them­selves into fly­ing be­ings. It’s the per­fect metaphor for an al­bum that ex­plores trans­for­ma­tion, heal­ing and pain, and hu­mans’ com­plex re­la­tion­ship with the nat­u­ral world. In­deed, just when it seemed Panic Room’s Anne-Marie Helder and Jon Ed­wards’s side pro­ject couldn’t garner any more plau­dits, they drop Atropa. It is a won­der and the finest Luna Rossa record to date.

If their last al­bum Se­crets And Lies ex­plored the com­plex­i­ties of hu­man re­la­tion­ships, es­pe­cially the dark­ness of de­pres­sion and be­trayal, Atropa is no less moody. This time, how­ever, the Lu­nas add a greater dose of hope and ten­der­ness. Atropa be­gins in mys­tery and frac­tures: the opener Mid­night fea­tures Clan­nad-like har­monies and harp from long-time col­lab­o­ra­tor Sarah Dean, and builds into a dis­con­cert­ing long­ing for the night.

Yet, if Helder and co are no less afraid of the dark than on pre­vi­ous of­fer­ings – songs like Deadly Night­shade speak of poi­son and shadow – their over­all tone is al­most cel­e­bra­tory. The use of Pan­ics’ stick­meis­ter Gavin John Grif­fiths brings rhyth­mic crisp­ness to tracks like Spe­cial One. Ed­wards’ chilled pi­ano, Grif­fiths’ drums and Helder’s joy­ous voice join to­gether to make a song for sum­mer days and chilling out.

The use of a grit­tier and heav­ier ef­fects – in­clud­ing Helder’s per­cus­sive use of acous­tic guitar on Red Moon – en­sures that Atropa never feels one-paced or samey. No one has ever doubted Helder’s lu­mi­nous vo­cals, but on Red Moon the per­cus­sive in­ter­play brings out new di­men­sions. In­vis­i­ble is groovy and smooth with­out be­ing bland and Ed­wards sits back on Grif­fiths’ beat with the un­der­stand­ing that only years of play­ing to­gether can bring.

Be­cause this is the Lu­nas there are sur­prises, not least in the cov­ers de­part­ment. The take on Dave Ste­wart/Bar­bara Gaskin clas­sic Make Me Prom­ises is groovy and ten­der, but we’re not sure any­one is pre­pared for the Lu­nas’ ver­sion of ABBA’s Win­ner Takes It All. Helder has had a life-long love of ABBA, and it shows: the Lu­nas’ ver­sion is sim­ple, melan­cholic and shat­ter­ing. The vo­cal in­ter­play be­tween Helder and Dean is bit­ter­sweet and the ar­range­ment could stop time.

Atropa, then, is a joy. On Fam­ily Tree – a paean to fam­ily re­la­tion­ships – Helder sings ‘you are my fam­ily tree’. As she does so, it feels like she’s singing just for you. This is no mere side pro­ject. This is a fam­ily all prog fans should wish to be part of.


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