Formed in the incessantly sunny city of San Francisco a decade ago when Wooden Shjips guitarist Ripley Johnson joined forces with keyboardist Sanae Yamada, the now Portland-based Moon Duo have found a fitting home at over at Sacred Bones Records through which to release their psychedelic sounds.
Easily one of the most consistent among a slew of artists lumped in with the recent psychedelic revival movement, to date they’ve put out six LP’s, three EP’s and one relentlessly pummelling live album. Recorded in the Northern Italian city of Ravenna in 2013, it marked the occasion when Moon Duo became a live trio performing with Canadian drummer John Jeffrey.
Constantly evolving and experimenting with new forms of heavy psych, their sound has largely been characterised by what Moon Duo have half-jokingly called “repeat-o-rock”. Effectively, a loose combination of space rock, drone rock and krautrock featuring repetitive rhythms and saturated guitars with electronic underpinnings and shared, male-female vocals.
However on their latest and most intriguing album Stars Are The Light, they’ve taken a sharp turn towards something altogether softer, shinier and more mellow. The guitars have been stripped back, with a more electronic-led, disco-inspired, psychedelic dream pop sound coming to the fore. It was a potentially risky move, as any stylistic change often is, but it’s one that has undoubtedly paid off.
A regular fixture at psychedelic festivals all across the globe, it was only fitting that Moon Duo stopped by the home of one of the world’s greatest celebrations of psychedelia on their current European and North American tour. We knew we were in for an audio-visual treat but what we witnessed more than surpassed all expectations.
Performing inside a translucent, tent-like structure that surrounded all three band members, all manner of tripped out, mind expanding visuals were projected on to it from the inside. Moon Duo and their collaborations with Manchester-based artist Emmanuel Biard have taken things to a whole new level when it comes to audio-visual performances in the past, but this was something even the most seasoned psych fest attendee would have been blown away by.
Their set saw them blend the more laid back sounds of their latest album with a few of their older, more driving tracks, several of which were taken from 2017’s Occult Architecture Vol. 1. With the furthest they delved into their back catalogue being ‘I Been Gone’ from 2012’s Circles. There was certainly no shortage of highlights but a lengthy airing of ‘White Rose’ deserves a special mention.
Although many may have been surprised not to hear the title-track and lead single from Stars Are The Light, no one would have been even slightly disappointed with the audio-visual spectacular with which they were presented. An encore of the superb ‘Lost Heads’ from their new album and a cover of ‘Jukebox Babe’ by Suicide’s Alan Vega ended the night in stunning fashion.