For St. Paul’s hypnotic art-pop group Moon & Pollution, the creative process behind their enchanting debut album “The Box Borealis” was just as ineffable as the album itself.
This dark dream-pop band isn’t so concerned with cut-and-dried lyrical storytelling or conventional musical patterns. They’ve found a different path to lucidity, fueled by nuance and sensuality. “We came together initially because we had the same sort of interest in creating a certain aesthetic or feel,” said vocalist Molly Dean.
She’s referring to the distinctive, downtempo, trance-y sounds that producer/drummer Graham O’Brien has a knack for pumping out. The beatmaker has honed this skill with his locally acclaimed alternative hip-hop group No Bird Sing since 2008. Dean, a folk-influenced singer/songwriter, is no stranger to pushing boundaries — she has for a decade constructed intricate live harmonies with a loop machine when performing. The unique, dreamy quality of O’Brien’s work left Dean itching to collaborate.
O’Brien began sending Dean tracks — musical soundscapes on which she could build. The first he sent her became the title cut of “The Box Borealis,” and O’Brien was immediately impressed with the ideas Dean had for the song. “The first song is one that’s got tons and tons of space,” O’Brien said. “Molly found a way to really use her voice as an instrument on it.”
Dean says she added vocal melodies and lyrics on the album by visualizing those spaces. “I wanted to fit my lyrics in the songs but not so as to take away from the music,” she said. “I wanted them to become a part of it.”
Once the duo completed the album, they recruited friends Matt Leavitt (who played some guitar on the record) and Lister Rossel Echagüe (the studio engineer) to accompany them on stage. Meanwhile, their song “Alter Eagle” was recently featured on the season premiere of MTV’s “Teen Wolf,” leading to some exciting international exposure for the band.
Though Moon & Pollution fashioned a cohesive package on the album, they weren’t trying to box it into any specific marketing category. They cite atmospheric trip-hop influences like Portishead or Massive Attack, but they’re careful to avoid pigeonholing themselves. “We’re trying to not stick within any genre boundaries,” O’Brien said. “If we made something that’s really abstract and resembles a puddle of vibe … I’d rather have that than try to fit into some pre-made form.
“I think we were just trying to make music that lines up with our dream patterns,” he continued. “Every song has an ebb and flow to it. It’s a nebulous, mysterious thing.”