Utrecht-based electronica producer and video director David Douglas draws inspiration from an unusual place: his namesake David Douglas (1799-1834), a Scottish botanist whose North American journals the living Douglas absorbed while writing material for his album-length follow-up to 2012's debut EP Royal Horticultural Society. The producer was especially struck by the words the botanist wrote in 1834 concerning astronomical observations: “As the sun sank behind the western flank of Mouna Roa, the splendour of the scene increased, but when the nearly full moon rose in a cloudless sky, and shed her silvery brightness on the fiery lake, roaring and boiling in fearful majesty, the spectacle became so commanding, that I lost a fine night for making astronomical observations, by gazing on the volcano, the illumination of which was but little diminished by a thick haze that set in at midnight.”
But having read such text, no one should automatically conclude that Moon Observations is a prog-styled concept album, some distant cousin to Dark Side of the Moon or otherwise. Instead, Douglas used the botanist's musings to jumpstart his own creative process and produce a self-described “musical ode to all moon observers in time.” In simplest terms, Moon Observations offers a forty-two-minute ride through eleven trippy cuts rooted in house, boom-bap, and soul-funk. The dream-like “Far Side of the Moon,” a head-nodding harbinger of the deep grooves to come, establishes an early soulful tone for the album, which “Higher” extends into an aromatic and dub-wise arena. A pulsating bass line helps render “California Poppy” memorable, while a crisp funk groove does much the same for “Romanticism.” Douglas also brings a couple of guests aboard, with Norwegian Petter Carlsen contributing a falsetto vocal to “Sweet Moonflower” that enhances its chugging house swing and Dutch pop singer Blaudzun elevating the dramatic “White Heat Blood” with a haunting vocal performance. And don't exit the album early, as doing so would mean missing out on the epic title track.
Resplendently rich in melody and warmly analogue in feel, Douglas's electro-funk jams go down easily, especially when they're filled with chunky bass lines, crackle-drenched samples, and hooks aplenty (check out the whistling flute in “Selene” as one example). He's a producer who throughout the set supplements his obvious production skills and natural musicality with an impressive command of arrangement and texture.