Based in San Fransisco, Moon Duo is the brainchild of Erik “Ripley” Johnson, known from his work in Wooden Shjips, and Sanae Yamada. Centering around a psychedelic perspective, the band has released a series of works, influenced by garage aesthetics and krautrock, projecting their own trippy themes within an existing framework.
Occult Architecture is Moon Duo's latest full-length releases. Split into two volumes, the band investigates the concept of yin and yang within their music, attempting to present two sides of the same coin. Even though the overall result sees common thread between the two volumes, Moon Duo achieves a degree of separation in terms of the sonic manifestations. This is also greatly aided by the differences during the post-production process, where Vol II was treated completely separately from Vol I, as the band split the sessions and worked with a completely distinct perspective towards the end result.
The first entry in Occult Architecture deals with the Yin, which according to Moon Duo represents the feminine, the night, earth and darkness. The heavy riffs that greet you from the start of this journey point towards a heavier, earthy domain and as the album unfolds the more ominous and darker qualities hidden beneath the psychedelia. Building around krautrock structures allows a solid foundation on top of which the psychotropic leads can evolve. The distortion added on also carries a harsh tonality, something especially true in “White Rose” with the guitars transforming the mesmerizing desert scenery Moon Duo has crafted.
Tracks like “Cult of Moloch” and “Will of the Devil” feature all the acidic qualities of psychedelia with a more sinister edge, the guitars appearing under a magical setting, detailing the process of a trip that even though it has not turned bad, it certainly has made you more uncomfortable that you would like. Still, the hallucinogenic process does not produce only heavy and unnerving results, exploiting brilliantly the progression and pacing towards the catchier “Creepin'” and “Cross-Town Fade” unveiling a different side of Vol I.
The change in scenery is drastic with Vol II. Focusing on the yang, the band travels to the bright edge of the spectrum, and leaves behind the earthy to explore the ethereal. This shift in focus is especially apparent in the use of distortion, where even though it appears equally fuzzy to Vol I, the way it has been mixed alters completely the scenery surrounding it. And, while the record still evolves through a krautrock narrative in terms of progression, the underlying quality is turned towards the dreamlike instead of the asphyxiating, as “Lost in Light” suggests.
The psychedelic touches are transcendental, instead of the desert trip of Vol I, the second installment travels above the clouds and stares directly at the sun, with an elusive characteristic reminiscent of the softer sides of shoegaze. At times appearing as a summer breeze, for instance with “Mirror's Edge,” it forces the form of the music to become less rigid. The slower pace and the laid back attitude that the band takes on aid in this direction, channeling a spiritual element and creating an absorbing experience.
As it is the case with the yin and yang, part of each entity exists within the other, so is the case with Occult Architecture. The two volumes have a shared foundation, a common starting point from where Moon Duo begin their explorations. Through the darker corners of Vol I and the cloudy skies of Vol II, the band creates a completely immersive experience, maximizing the effect of their psychedelia and creating a work that is deep, catchy and always trippy.
8.3 / 10
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