Moscow Magazine deliver a kind of ersatz backstreet theatre vibe. From the first of Alice’s soprano notes in Satine, the album’s sound evokes a kind of gypsy stage show. That gypsy sound is possibly most prominent in True Blue, where the instrumentation takes on the timbre of turn of the century interval music (see Panic! At The Disco’s Intermission at around the 40 second mark). Those taught strings and Roma scales really come together to lay down a clear statement of intent for this band’s sound, which is made even bolder by the breakdown that sounds as if it is delivered from the altar of an apocolyptic church.
The titular track, Sandbox, makes a great use of backing vocals and hand drums to cast some atmosphere. An electric guitar in the bridge forbears a fantastic build back up to to crescendo through the four minute mark, which suffers only for the repetition of “have to, have to, have to” etc. When that guitar comes back for a surprisingly shreddy solo, we’re back on track though. She Deserves Your Love opens up with some fantastic instrumentation that seems a precursor to a strong lower-energy track, and delivers – though halfway through each listen you can’t help but be left wanting for some structure.
My Angel develops into a solid song, but early on suffers from a systemic problem. Despite the acquired taste of the Kate Bush-esque soprano register, it’s the strange diction that sometimes disrupts things for me in Alice’s vocal delivery. Some syllables are just a little too over-emphasised, the stresses landing in a couple of the wrong places such as in the chorus of When I Am Lonely.
The album finishes up on Dodo’s Last Flight, a full and hearty ballad that I like to think tells the love story of the last two Dodos on earth, but probably doesn’t. Overall, the album boasts impressive instrumentation and a refreshingly different gypsy vibe – but suffers from vocals that are just a few notches too unique.