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“The Sky Knelt to the Sea” by Mars FM — A Cartographic Adventure in Sound


If the universe were a quilt stitched from the fabric of various genres, Mars FM’s debut album, “The Sky Knelt to the Sea,” would be its kaleidoscopic patch. Born from the late-night airwaves of KDUR in Durango, Colorado, the trio—now operating out of Portland, Oregon—has manifested an album that manages to serve as both a compass and a map to musical landscapes that are both tangible and otherworldly.

Picture an astronaut donned in cowboy boots and flannel, stepping onto a spaceship that looks suspiciously like a 1960s Woodstock van. That’s the audible feast Mars FM offers. Zack Bauer’s vocals and pedal steel guitar, Zoe Larsen’s bass and harmonium, and Chris Moraga’s drumming on the album create a blend that feels like the aural equivalent of dipping your toes into a stream while gazing at a supernova. The combination of ’90s grunge, psychedelic rock, and indie folk serves as the base ingredients, but it’s the zesty hints of pedal steel guitar and the sumptuous layers of Hammond Organ and harmonium that elevate this musical dish into a gourmet experience. 

While the album is undeniably a celestial affair, it also bears its roots in the terrestrial. It’s as if each of the ten tracks serves as a scenic overlook on a winding road trip through America’s natural beauty—from its sprawling deserts to its towering forests and awe-inspiring coastlines. But this is not just an Instagrammable tour; it’s a deeper exploration into the dual nature of these places. Mars FM doesn’t shy away from pointing the telescope at the darker corners of the universe or peering into the shadowy depths of an oceanic abyss. They acknowledge that the sublime often lives next door to the sinister, and the album is richer for it.

“Beneath The Blue” envelops the audience in an earthly emptiness, punctuated by Zoe Larsen’s fervent vocal outpourings and a gritty overlay of distortion. Shifting gears to a folkier ambience in “Staring At The Moon,” Larsen and Bauer weave a captivating journey through the labyrinthine emotional realms of lost connections and cosmic solitude. “The Sky Knelt to the Sea,” that best captures Mars FM’s knack for elemental fusion. In it, you can almost hear the horizon line where the sky humbles itself before the endless ocean—a cosmic bow acknowledging the profoundness of the natural world.

What Mars FM has accomplished with “The Sky Knelt to the Sea” is akin to drafting a star chart that also reveals the veins of minerals running deep in the Earth’s crust. This debut album is not a hurried trip, but more like a contemplative hike through terrains both earthbound and galactic. It calls for multiple listens, each promising the discovery of a new layer or a hidden musical landmark.

In a climate of fast food-like singles and viral hits, this album offers a sit-down meal that satisfies the soul as much as it does the auditory senses. It’s an atlas of emotional geographies, as anchored in the dirt and stone of Earth as it is untethered and floating in the interstellar medium.

For those willing to journey, “The Sky Knelt to the Sea” serves as both guide and companion, showing us that the frontier of exploration is not just “out there” in the cosmos, but also right here—rooted in the Earth and woven into the very fabric of our being. It’s an ambitious and beautifully executed record that asks you not just to listen, but to hear—to really hear—the profound interconnectedness of all things.