LIVE REVIEW: Moon Duo @ OAF, Sydney 30/09/11

written by Chris Familton

Melbourne’s Fabulous Diamonds set the mood of the evening with a set composed around drone and hypnotic repetition. Featuring just drums and keyboards the duo were in no rush to get anywhere in particular with songs that slowly evolved from metronomic drum patterns into gently pulsing waves of analog synths, grinding organ, sparsely decorated with vocals from drummer Nisa Venerosa. When she sang the mood lightened considerably, bridging that gap between man and machine with a voice that hinted at the doomy tones of Nico while still sounding like a breath of fresh air. They have a fine-tuned sound that reminiscent of an ambient Suicide or the Velvets if they’d discovered keyboards instead of guitars.

Moon Duo is another project of Wooden Shjips guitarist Ripley Johnson and that connection no doubt drew in a few curious punters who have been taken with that band’s take on psychedelic guitar rock. As a duo Johnson and partner Sanae Yamada cut striking figures on stage, Johnson with his white streaked full beard and Yamada behind the keyboards, hair flying and body lost in the sonic waves they were creating. That name Suicide popped up again with Moon Duo more closely related than Fabulous Diamonds. The use of drum machines gave their sound that insistent, Krautrock angle that hammers the rhythm into your brain and locks on for the ride. Before you knew it you were nodding your head to Johnson’s tripped out guitars that were a mix of desert rock and Grateful Dead retro psychedelia. His playing was a hybrid of solos and repetitive chords that never settled into one or the other, constantly interchanging without deviating from the forward movement of the music. Yamada’s keyboards acted as the driving force behind the music keeping it grounded and cemented to the beat.

The combination of all these elements resulted in songs that felt like they were the ghosts of 60s garage rock, warped and infused with 70s space rock and exploratory primitive electronica. Seer soared into the stratosphere while Mazes was a summer cruise down the coast with the roof down. Visually they used video and screen projections that enhanced the music to great effect. Psychotropic kaleidoscopic mixed with strafing lines and epileptic digital effects to perfectly complement the nature of the music. This was brilliantly executed head music of the highest order that knew the importance of also connecting physically.

this review was first published in The Drum Media

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