ALBUM REVIEW: Moon Duo – Occult Architecture Vol. 1


Moon Duo return with the first of two albums they plan to release in 2017, with both volumes rooted in balanced and oppositional ideas and textures. The conceptual approach of the double album is, in their words “an intricately woven hymn to the invisible structures found in the cycle of seasons and the journey of day into night, dark into light.” That Yin Yang format won’t of course make complete sense until Vol. 2 is released later in the year but for now you can be assured that Moon Duo are still doing what they do best – laying down dense, surging and grinding psych rock rhythms.

Their music is always one of perpetual motion and since their first releases, which were dominated by a colder and more mechanical mood, they’ve slowly evolved to find a unique common ground between machine-like repetition, Sanae Yamada’s kosmiche synth washes and melodies and the free-spirited guitar explorations courtesy of Ripley Johnson.

On Occult Architecture Vol. 1, the term primitive futurism keeps coming to mind. The pair conjure up images of mysterious shadowy figures, druids, shamanistic rituals and pagan mysticism with their obfuscated lyrics and general dark tones and textures. They also invoke the spirit of astral travel and space travel, their songs often resembling a object hurtling through space and free of any earthly restraint. There’s a certain cyber quality to the shape and relentless drive of Moon Duo, albeit infused with human emotions – both good and bad.

‘Cold Fear’ induces just that – a queasy feeling of unease which makes it a less aggressive descendent of Suicide’s experiments at putting their audiences in a state of discomfort. ”Cross Town Fade’ is a curious blend of a tranced-out Sigue Sigue Sputnik stuck in a glam boogie vortex while ‘Will Of The Devil’ spins on an axis of insistent drumming with a yearning, melancholic synth melody sounding like a lost transmission from the point where Joy Division became New Order.

The album closer ‘White Rose’ emerges from the dark mist into a more optimistic world, one built on a perfect Krautrock rhythm and Johnson’s guitar sounding like a demonstrative insect buzzing and demanding to be heard. The glorious drone rolls on for ten minutes, onward and upward toward the light and presumably its spring/summer-centric sibling album.

It’s a fascinating journey, with or without the overarching concept, and reinforces the ability of Moon Duo to create music that is both sonically straightjacketed, endlessly immersive and without visible horizons.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Moon Duo | Circles

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