by Chris Familton
It was only last year that Moon Duo gave us their debut album Mazes, a record which showed that though guitarist Ripley Johnson (Wooden Shjips) was still operating in similar terrain to his aquatic pals, the addition of Sanae Yamada’s synth textures provided plenty of new angles to discover and bliss out to. Circles takes that template and stretches and tightens it even further by maintaining the essential ingredients of drone and psych but this time injecting more swagger and melody to the sound.
I Can See is a prime example of Moon Duo making subtle sonic adjustments. It has a playful hiccuping beat with a ghost-house organ swirling around it like a phantom menace. As it digs a hole in your head it casts a positively uplifting shadow over the early part of the record, making for a sense of euphoric trance rather than a drugged-out, sleepy head nod. The interstellar country haze of Sparks and the hypnotic sway of Trails finds them slowing things down and heading into Brian Jonestown Massacre territory while Free Action ramps up the boogie quotient and returns them to their Suicide comfort zone. The influence of the New York no wavers borders on worship but Johnson has found ways to filter it through his effects pedals and garage psych rock headspace to breath new life into the sound.
In a musical space bound by drone and repetition Circles continues the impeccable quality control and songwriting of Ripley Johnson. It adheres to the principal of finding a groove and digging in deep and for those who love the cerebral and physical immersion that comes from that, this will be an essential addition to their music collections.
this review was first published in Drum Media