Rant’N’Roll: Moon Hooch

When all of us hippies used to camp out, smoke weed, strum our acoustics and howl at the moon in the early ‘70s in the New York State wilderness, we also drank a concoction of rotgut whiskey and cheap red wine. We called it “moon hooch.” That’s why I was surprised and intrigued upon pulling Red Sky (Hornblow Recordings) out of my mailbox by a Brooklyn band called Moon Hooch. This I had to hear!

Two horns with drums? Song titles like “Rough Sex,” “Alien Invasion” and “Broken Tooth”? With Wilbur and Wenzl on horns and James Muschler on drums, Red Sky is leagues removed from the days when they used to play in New York City subways for chump change. But it’s my job here to describe this, isn’t it? Fine. How ‘bout this: Moon Hooch is total DIY indie-rock, jazz and EDM (electronic dance music). They all meditate and do yoga. They have an amazing social consciousness. And if they can lure me in upon first listen with this sort of stuff, then folks naturally inclined towards such should have some new heroes.

Their self-titled 2013 debut and 2014 This Is Cave Music follow-up has led to Red Sky. In concert, they’re not above using traffic cones to direct their sound. They’ve even developed a “Reverse DJ” system in which the natural sound of their horns get run through laptop software. Lately, now that they’re not busking anymore and are sharing stages with the likes of Beats Antique, They Might Be Giants and Lotus, they’ve taken to incorporating some good old-fashioned moog synthesizer, as well as an EWI (electronic wind instrument). In fact, they’ve been banned from certain subway stops by the NYPD when crowd control became an issue.

The 13 tracks here in 45 minutes spare no expense in winning over the listener. “Psychotubes” approximates metal while “Shot” leans towards funk. I swear I hear the dulcet tones of a clarinet somewhere in the mix but I’ll never know because the CD has no personnel information whatsoever, just three pretty pictures. (The cover features a disembodied head minus face but complete with ear, hair and feathers. Oh wait, I think I see a hand too.)

Drummer Muschler went to India, followed a trail by the Ganges River, heard the inviting sound of a tabla being played in the early morning, followed the sound, met a man, and wound up taking tabla lessons, lessons which now inform his drumming.

About that social consciousness? They play as many benefit concerts as possible for a host of righteous causes, many that support local farmers and co-ops in an effort to educate the public about the importance of buying fresh and buying local when it comes to food. Like the great folk hero Pete Seeger [1919-2014], they’ve helped in river clean-ups. They even have their own food blog, “Cooking In The Cave” where they espouse healthy, sustainable organic recipes. They back up their talk by walking the walk: they tour with a mobile kitchen set-up. Talk to any big-time rock star and they’ll tell you one of the negatives of touring is bad food on the run.

Red Sky hasn’t yet left my turntable. From being initially intrigued, to totally loving this crazy-ass pastiche of sound, I have been musically reborn. Heretofore, if it wasn’t blues, real country, samba, salsa, folk, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, gospel, funk, soul, bluegrass, classical, Tex-Mex, rockabilly, metal, soundtrack or tango music (lately, a little polka has crept into my worldview), I would scoff. No more. Moon Hooch, besides being something I used to guzzle under the stars, has taught me to never say never when it comes to new sound.