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Half-Shadow’s “Moonless (Unmoored)”: A Strange, Evocative Dream

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Half-Shadow’s new song “Moonless (Unmoored)” is the type of track that, if listened to before bed, will trigger some very strange dreams. And it’s no wonder, seeing as Half-Shadow is known for their simmering, psychedelic style. Jesse Carsten, the face behind Half-Shadow, self-describes their work as “song collages,” a phrase which offers a certain vulnerability: “Moonless (Unmoored)” is more than three minutes and nineteen seconds of music. It’s a life, ripped apart and glued back together. It’s a myth, stitched along the edges of experience. It’s hard won wisdom, pressed flat against a sprawling page and translated into sound. 

Your eye flashes so beautifully shy/What is it that you’re hiding?/In what home do you keep your secret glow?

The song begins with crackling ambiance and a low mechanical hum that folds into the opening plucks of acoustic guitar. I can’t emphasize enough what a strangely hallucinogenic song this is. It feels like the echo sound filter on TikTok, the one that fractures and softens and, when placed over a video, casts the whole scene in a blurry, nostalgic feel. This song songs like a recurring dream, something both distant and intimate.  I was sitting at my desk the first time I listened to it, awash in amber light from a borrowed desk lamp and watching the sky outside the window, and something about the opening of this track triggered the most intense wave of deja vu. “Moonless (Unmoored)” is both unsettling and whimsical — like standing in a dark forest and seeing glowing eyes wink open around you. 

In what hold do you keep your secret glow/And where wages your hidden war? 

The music video commits admirably to the song’s aesthetic. We find our narrator stranded in black and white pixels, the background flashing between grainy coastal images. We see foaming shorelines. Tiny birds darting across the sand. Blackened cliffs hanging over hungry water. And of course, the outline of our narrator’s face — all while the lyrics dance across the screen in disorientingly cheerful letters. The visual component weaves itself seamlessly into Half-Moon’s song collage, leaning into the wonderfully bizarre images that shine through the lyrics. 

And what door can you open onto timeless shore/An ocean breathes in a midnight, moonless and unmoored

This song seems, at least to me, like it’s meant to be an immersive experience, one that crawls against all five of your senses. It’s experimental and deconstructive in the way that is unique to the Pacific Northwest — so it’s no surprise that Carsten hails from Portland, where he has gathered a small army of passionate listeners. True to its name, Half-Shadow’s “Moonless (Unmoored)” paints a dark, drifting image that will haunt you in the very best way.

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