Among the list of widely influential electronic music producers, it’s no surprise to find that a vast quantity of them either come from - or end up moving into - audio engineering backgrounds and enterprises. From a technical standpoint, there’s an obvious pairing between the ability to compose and produce the musical product and refine its overall sonic profile. This technical association is only half of the equation, however, as engineering capabilities often further translate into an enhanced composition and production output in a wonderfully circular feedback loop. Jim Moynihan positions himself at the center of that loop through his musical moniker, Spoonbill. A veteran instrumentalist and production prodigy, Moynihan’s releases over the last 14 years feature a number of critically celebrated albums, including the venerable downtempo album Tinkerbox. Channeling a similar vein of songwriting fundamentals and tonal fluidity, Canopy is the newest addition to the Spoonbill catalog, fusing time-tested design philosophies with fresh, lucid compositions.
Originally an avid percussionist, Moynihan went on to find himself enamored with electronic music after acquiring his first sampler in 1998. By the turn of the century, he possessed a degree in industrial design and a ferocious appetite for immersive productions. Across the last 16+ years, Moynihan has reached international acclaim for his intuitive audio-visual installations around the world while concurrently crafting and pursuing the Spoonbill experience. Crystal-clear patching and fidelity, improvisation, and glitched-out instrumental recordings are the plumage of this particularly eclectic avian, resulting in the sonic hallmark of stereo fullness within Spoonbill productions. Eschewing any and all rhythmic boundaries, his tracks take on a wide variety of forms and genre influences, and each consecutive release explores a bevy of tonal territories and attitudes.
The especially vibrant and organic timbres in Tinkerbox heavily contribute to its continued influence, bridging the gap between the formal precision of electronic production and the informal fluidity of instrumental music. Canopy is as much a positive successor to Tinkerbox as it is a uniquely original collection of tracks, further refining his trademark textures through an entirely new compositional landscape. The album opens with the incredibly cinematic “Open Misere”, blending orchestral string movements, harmonized brass, and powerful phrases of tension and release. It serves as a grand welcome into the often maniacal, always sultry Spoonbill experience, opening the way for vivid imaginings and emotional serenades. Expanding on the emotive atmosphere of the album, “Gullydupling” balances high moments of elation with relaxed breaks and passive turnarounds. The arrangement builds gracefully and resolves softly, mimicking the progression of Canopy as a whole, and indeed much of the Spoonbill Discography.
Moynihan’s musical catalog is a hodgepodge of original instrumentation and eccentric sampling, often resulting in fantastically imaginative combinations of moods and styles. “Coobalah” plays heavily on the use of scat samples, incorporating jazz vocalizations that are straight out of a 1920’s speakeasy. Resting these samples atop a frenetic arrangement, the track feels like an ode to the dance-first mentality of early glitch-hop, holding onto an in-the-pocket rhythm throughout its duration. Pocketed rhythms are a fast staple of Spoonbill productions, and Jim’s life-long passion for percussion is as foundational to Canopy as it is to every other Spoonbill release. “Nodding Greenhood” is a prime example of this percussive focus, with a shower of loquacious high-hats, clicks, pops, and downbeats pushing the song through its paces. Even at its highest moments of intensity, it remains driven by the rhythm, with every pulse of synthesis responding and calling out to the drums around it. The way the entire album meanders through its own vibe makes it all the more satisfying when it reaches the final track; “Thermal Ride” is to Canopy as “Lot Three” is to Tinkerbox. The note relationships and sensual choice of tone produces a constant air of finality, slowly rolling to the album’s conclusion through a song that touches the heartspace as well as the headspace. Gentle guitar lines dance between rubberized synthesis and splashes of delicate foley, finally saying goodbye with one effluent slidetar chord.
The last year has been a busy one for Moynihan: He’s returned to the United States for the first time in 10 years, delivering a Tinkerbox-inspired performance for Tipper’s three-night run in Brooklyn at the legendary King’s Theatre. He brought in the new year with a midnight performance in San Francisco at Cosmic Synergy’s highly anticipated Coalesce event. He released the Crosshatch EP, and now has yet another full-length album under his belt. He’s slated for performances at The Stone House in Nevada City, CA, as well as the Sonic Bloom and Yonderville music festivals later this summer, and will likely continue to perform here and abroad well into the fall. After a decade’s hiatus away from the United States, we can’t recommend enough that you catch him yourself, as his performances are as exuberant and immersive as his studio catalog. With Canopy now released into the public sphere, it can only be surmised that this material will receive a thorough reimagining as soon Spoonbill next graces the stage.