Making use of a limited palette of instruments and ideas is an approach that has tripped up many a musician as they’ve endeavoured to get to the core of their creativity and cut out any frills and fireworks. Both Moon Duo and singer/guitarist Ripley Johnson’s other band Wooden Shjips have always attempted to do just that and almost without fail they’ve succeeded.
Moon Duo’s fourth album takes the repetitive melodic hooks of Circles (2012) and takes them to a darker and more cocooned place. There is an increased sonic density and sometimes claustrophobia on Shadow Of The Sun even though they still sound like a band trying to create the aural equivalent of interstellar travel. Sanae Yamada’s keyboards take the lead in most cases, conjuring up the gothic garage rock of Zero, Free The Skulls’ droning psychedelic organ and the billowy dream pop of In A Cloud. Johnson knows that vocals are just another part of the compositional puzzle and provides them in the form of textural tones rather than a lyrical lead instrument.
Through the haze and drone there is a pop sensibility at the heart of Moon Duo’s music. Slow Down Low could easily be early rock n roll if it wasn’t for the Suicide and Krautrock filter the pair apply to the song. Shadow Of The Sun is ghostly, parallel-world music that hypnotically and economically rephrases the past. This is a mind-altering, chemical-free trip of the highest order and their strongest album to date.
this review was first published in The Music