Based out of the Los Angeles area, Brass Box’s fusion of dream-like shoegaze Goth embraces its chosen stylistic hybrid, but the intelligence driving its composition and lyrical content alike set it apart from contemporaries’ similar efforts. Their newest release, a single entitled “Moonlight Desires”, is a cover from songwriter and vocalist Laurence Gowan, primarily known now as Dennis DeYoung’s replacement in arena rock band Styx. Brass Box, fortunately, feels no impulse to imitate Gowan’s original and, instead, uses it as a springboard to weave their own musical magic and succeed in doing so. The band, led by front woman Ammo Bankoff, is joined by Bankoff’s longtime friend Neil Popkin, guitarist Matt Bennett, and drummer Pablo Amador and their stylistic stew of influences from acts as varied as The Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine, among others, fuses with their own identity for something truly unique in modern music.
The pop inclinations powering Gowan’s original make it into Brass Box’s take on the tune virtually intact and primarily distinguished by the modern production values they bring to the table. The biggest difference lies in how they treat the vocal – Bankoff’s singing is deeply emotive, but her voice is presented in a dream-like, near ghostly way that suggests the song is more of a vision and less concrete than what we’d hear from the typical pop cut. Matt Bennett’s guitar playing is another key ingredient as it cops much of the expected feel for a song born out of 80’s AOR radio while still bringing distinctive atmospheric touches to bear that twist the song in unexpected and memorable ways. The pace certainly picks up for the song’s second half and the near manic edge it manifests is accurately reflected in the video’s restless jump cuts. It is definitely possible and even encouraged to enjoy the song on its own merits, but even a single viewing of the single’s accompanying video can immeasurably enhance the listening experience.
Bankoff’s vocal has much to live up to, you aren’t hired as Styx’s lead singer if you aren’t a first class pop vocalist, but she owns the song thanks to the hazy romanticism of her delivery and her simultaneous balancing act of really making the song’s emotional import come to the fore. Unlike many vocalists, Bankoff shows the good instincts to shape her voice around the musical arrangement rather than attempting to sing against it and this decision results in a more complete musical performance than what we would have otherwise enjoyed. Brass Box’s “Moonlight Desires” captures many moods in its four minute plus running time and they are arranged in a coherent way that even casual listeners can follow. It makes this track one of the more enjoyable single releases we’ve heard in 2017 and promises even more bountiful rewards to come from future Brass Box releases.