The Moon & the Stars
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The Moon & the Stars

Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Band Alternative Avant-garde


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Review: Undertow"

The beauty of the Fringe ethos is that artists have license to experiment, to try things they have imagined but not undertaken. That’s the background of Undertow, a set of songs by Sean Rhiney and Mark Brasington that they characterize as a “visual soundtrack.”

As the pair wrote the music, they shared it with filmmaker Marcelina Robledo, who responded cinematically. For the Fringe, Rhiney and Brasington are joined by two more musicians, Brian Malone and Michael Roszkowski, and singer Tamara Williams — an ensemble that accompanies the soundless, black-and-white film.

Robledo’s work is visually arresting, commencing with images of a fast-flowing river. Then we’re introduced to three friends, two men and a woman, on a camping trip. It’s apparent that the woman (Mary Carmen Barbosa) is involved with one (Nick Rose) but attracted to the other (Joshua Ryan). This triangle is the dramatic dynamic as she's pulled from one man to the other.

As their story is presented, Brasington, Rhiney and company accompany with 11 melodic, bluesy tunes. “Waves” opens the piece, an overture of sorts that sets the mood without words. The rest of Undertow’s numbers feature Brasington or Rhiney as lead vocalists; both play guitar and keyboard; Malone is the percussionist, and Roszkowski handles an array of strings, including guitar and cello.

Their sound is rich and evocative, ranging from the angsty “Trying to Breathe” to a pensive, surreal meditation “Going Under.” When the woman breaks free of her first relationship and goes to her new lover, “Sweet Love” reflects a more innocent emotion, contrasted with the darkly moody “Wading Out” as the rejected lover contemplates his fate back on the river’s edge.

Robledo’s film is well made, with an effective device of a locket that links the relationships and adds a poignant punctuation to the closing moment. But the narrative is overly melodramatic. As the woman decides to leave, we have the cliché of packing a suitcase (hey, she’s just going to another guy’s house), then clutching the locket morosely then leaving it behind with a farewell note. Her rejected lover, piecing together what’s happened, puts down his head and weeps. The emotional sophistication of the music seemed at odds with this overly literal visualization.

But Rhiney, Brasington and Robledo’s project is about experimenting: The live accompaniment adds a resonance to the film that a recorded, synchronized soundtrack would not. As the musicians perform in almost total darkness, sliding almost seamlessly from one song to the next (in fact, discouraging applause in favor of the film’s narrative flow), the audience focuses on the images, which are intentionally hypnotic in several instances, especially “The Dream (Holiday)” and “The Dream (Reprise).”

It’s an intriguing result: The music and the emotions evoked seem to linger while the film’s images fade.

I’m glad Rhiney and Brasington have explored this blended medium, and I hope they continue to collaborate with Robledo. As their mutual efforts become more synchronized and symbiotic, I expect we’ll see performances that are both sophisticated and profoundly evocative. Check out Undertow and imagine the potential.

— Rick Pender

- Citybeat


Undertow 2009



The Moon & the Stars initially paired Cincinnati musicians' Sean Rhiney and Mark Brasington with a rotating collective of artists. Rhiney fronted rock band clabbergirl for over ten years, earning local Artist and Album of the Year nods as well as top honors from WOXY 97X along the way for his band's edgy rock pop sound. Brasington wrote and produced the critically applauded "White Is Gray" double disc in 2004, and was the chief songwriter for pop rock band, Odd Man Out, and later a guitarist with clabbergirl. He co-wrote the progressive rock instrumental album, "Groovoo" with bass virtuoso John Toedtman (of the Toedtman School of Music) and provided musical accompaniment for several local musical productions. The duo's first recorded composition, "Undertow", debuted at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival and featured 12 original songs played live nightly to visual accompaniment. The songs are bluesy, angular and moody, and vasiclate from ambient lunar soundscapes to gospel - sometimes within the same song. Live, the band features musicians Brian Malone (drummer/percussionist with the Bacchanal Steel Band and Kentucky Symphony Orchestra), cellist/guitarist Michael Roszkowski, and vocalist Tamara Williams.