It all started in a Newark, NJ bar, as all great stories do. Rob Fragnito approached Pat Nini if he played music all because of his long hair. And sometimes, stereotypes are correct. Shortly after their first jam session Moon Rabbit Retreat was born. As this rock duo, the pair released their debut EP, Watering Hole. After a few years and guitar players later, Jack Berger was found to complete their cosmic trio; with their final line-up being Fragnito on drums, keyboards, Octapad, and vocals, Nini on bass and vocals, and Berger on guitar and backing vocals. As songwriters the group culls inspiration from The Beatles to Beethoven, while their song structures are influenced by Yes, The Band, and Genesis.
Their latest release from December of 2020, Habitat holds four songs over four minutes. And while longer songs have strayed from the norm, it allows the group to create extended space rock gems. Beginning with ‘Sine Language,’ (a wonderful pun), their lengthiest track is nearly seven minutes yet the utilization of catchy and repetitive musical motifs creates enough contrast for the listener to retain interest. Emulating traditional musical forms notably used by progressive rock groups such as ELP and King Crimson; this track toggles back and forth from a synth forward section (A) and a slower gentler section with vocal layers (B) and at 4:00 back to the A section with variations of added instrumental parts (A1). The song ends on a cozy guitar solo at 5:22 extrapolating on the main motif and ending with a sweet sewing of the vocal line and guitar part doubling the melody.
The second track “Between the Grey” is a song with many movements. Opening with muffled vocals paralleling perhaps what a grey area sounds like before the track moves into a slow Chicago-style piano ballad. At 2:11 we have a heavy electronic shift, with 3:40 starting another movement, this time percussive driven. Returning ‘home’ at 5:10 with the reprise of the first section which seems to be what the listener may be anticipating the entire track- familiarity.
Next, “Yeah, Sorry. / Better (Reprise)” is a page right out of Pink Floyd’s book. Starting with acoustic guitar singing more profound lyrics, “I find myself getting warmer/When the Summer turns to Fall,” and in true Moon Rabbit Retreat fashion, transition (1:27) before getting more celestial and ethereal. The guitar soloing is musical candy mirroring the emotion and intention of each note as Gilmour does. And the final tune “Homesick,” is as catchy and nostalgic as a 00’s song with a heavy synthesizer twist. A cherry on top of a multi-faceted EP.
But still after listening to the Moon Rabbit Retreat journey, you may still ask yourself, “what is a Moon Rabbit Retreat?” and Fragnito explains the term came from a setting on his synthesizer titled “Moon Rabbit,” but the trio now refers to a moon rabbit retreat as a place for all space bunnies to coexist and live peacefully.
LONG STORY SHORT: Moon Rabbit Retreat encapsulates many vibes and genres in their music. While their songs are lengthier and often have sparse vocals, that never equates to lack of diversity or captivating content. Spacey, Synth Heavy Goodness.