Gabriel Moreno – The year of the rat

in Features

A new album by our Cultural Ambassador

Readers of my articles for ‘Insight Magazine’ will be no strangers to the name Gabriel Moreno, a local London based poet musician who last November was given the Cultural Ambassador Award in a plush ceremony at the Sunborn Hotel for his body of work and his untiring efforts to promote our identity and culture in the UK and further afield through his music, poetry and published literature. Nobody was more surprised than Gabriel, who at the time of receiving news of the nomination was busy finishing his fourth studio album ‘The Year of the Rat,’ which was due for release on 7th this month in London at the Tower Theatre and it can now be confirmed, there will also be a local launch and concert here on April 1st at the Inces Hall.

I last caught up with him on the morning after he had received the award to find out what it meant to him and also to check on the progress of this new album. “It came as a complete surprise to me. I knew that our acclaimed writer MG Sanchez had received the same award in 2020 but I had no idea that my name had been put up for it. When Culural Services told me I was very humbled and also very joyful. To have been recognised in your town is really lovely. In my acceptance speech I clearly remember saying how important it is to define our identity as a collective of Gibraltarians and how poetry, theatre, literature, music and art will help us to define this personality that we have.”

As a thriving community it’s hard to keep us down as we always aim to punch above our weight and mostly we succeed, so it comes as no surprise that cash strapped artists such as Gabriel Moreno, who is well versed as a curator of the London poetry scene, would embark on crowd funding to make possible the production and release of his latest CD and vinyl offering. This trend of self publishing has enabled many authors and musicians to survive and free themselves from dealing with publishers and record companies whose cut of the cake, should there be any success, usually left them just the crumbs on which to survive. It is a bold move to embark on a project which relies entirely on crowd funding but by pushing the creative envelope further, artists and authors consolidate their fan base by inviting them to be a part of their creations. It’s the only way that secures artistic freedom and a meaningful return instead of the usual twenty percent royalties offered in contracts.

“As we speak (November last year) we are past the sixty percent of target and we still have three weeks to go so I am hopeful that the funds will keep coming in. Mostly it’s the vinyl copies of the album which are incredibly expensive to produce but the trend seems to be that vinyl albums with their cover photographs and sleeve notes etc, are a more tangible memento of the record release and as they can be pre ordered as signed copies, that makes them even more desirable to own. The money from the pre orders goes into offsetting production costs as well as towards promoting the album. It’s fantastic that people are part of the journey as well. They invest in the journey with you and for that to happen they first need to be aware and have subscribed to what you have done before, so that they travel with you in expectation of a product that will fulfil their longing as well as yours.”

“The incredible thing about working in the ‘underground’ (Alternative music scene) is that in the beginning everything seems impossible as you are doing everything yourself, but as you progress and you get exposure on radio, TV and live concerts, the royalties and come in and they are one hundred percent yours. If we were tied to an underground label we would only get twenty percent of all that, so it makes complete sense to remain independent and own your material. At the beginning we thought that the risk was too high but after ten years we now know that we made the right decision to embark on this journey by ourselves and not tied to anybody.”

Fast forward to present day and the new album ‘The Year of the Rat’ which I was privileged to listen to as soon as it was mastered, is now available and will be launched here on the April 1st with a concert by Gabriel Moreno and The Quivering Poets. Look out for further details in the coming weeks, but in the meantime I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you my first impressions of this exciting new work which was conceived during lockdown at a time when things seemed to be a lot more uncertain than what they are today.

The opening track called ‘Solitude’ is full of promise and great musical touches. It’s familiar Gabriel territory but sounds fresh and grabs your attention. ‘Painter’ is a duet with London based upcoming Folk sensation Pearl Fish. There’s plenty of musical space in between and the chorus with the duo draws you into the intimacy of the portrait. The third track is a great song with electric guitars which compliment the strum of the poet’s acoustic nylon guitar and then Ned Cartwright adds some deft Latin touches with his keyboards. Your interest is still on the ascendancy as track four, the most commercial offering of the album, titled ‘Sellotape my Heart’ bounces into the room and lifts your spirits higher- you find yourself smiling in approval and there is no interest lost as the song builds up.

Gabriel the poet singer songwriter draws you into his world as the next three songs indicate a change in direction. ‘Everyday News’ is sparse but beautiful and has a wistful piano break which makes it sublime. No bells and whistles here, just good words lovingly crafted into song. ‘Dreams of the Poor’ stays in the same groove and there is (for me) great guitar phrasing that sets this one apart. ‘Dance in an empty Field’ brings down the curtain on the introspective segment of the album and it signs off with a Spanish ending, a nod to our roots as we then greet ‘All that we have’ which warms you with a slow bluesy feel throughout, later reprised in a trumpet solo by Chilean Jazz master Sergio Contreras Acosta and accented by Hammond organ-like stabs which pick up the vibe and makes this track a musical highlight of the album. The vocals too are given a very interesting treatment in the chorus and so to ‘When the City Wakes up’ which is surely about London, it spins its story of the lockdown as you are drawn into the lyric’s imagery. This one is indeed a classy song.

The title track ‘Year of the Rat’ closes the album. It would have been easy to fall into pseudo Chinese touches here, but we are treated to a complex and uplifting beat with fine musical touches supporting it all the way. Surprise is everything in music and this song works surprisingly well. A lot of production skills and love has gone into crafting this album and talented Christian Gadd who lives in London has put his producer’s stamp on this in a musical and masterful way. The album has a shine on it which compliments all the songs. Nothing is overcooked. Instead all the musical pieces fit perfectly and allow the lyrical prowess of Gabriel Moreno and his compelling guitar-led troubadour style, to breathe comfortably and please our senses. That is the mark of a great album which will invite replaying again and again because there are always little gems to be discovered in every spin. 

The Album can be purchased at:
www.gabrielmoreno.co.za

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