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Moon Duo - Occult Architecture Vol. 1 (Album Review)

Thursday, 09 February 2017 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Howard Wise

Moon Duo have been producing synth-based drone rock for almost a decade, with each of their records representing a leap forward for their sound. Split into a “psychedelic opus” of two separate volumes representing Yin and Yang, ‘Occult Architecture Vol.1’ is, according to guitarist Erik ‘Ripley’ Johnson, the dark side.

Defined by the period during which recording and mixing took place, spanning from the “dead of winter and continuing into the rebirth and blossoming of the spring”, the concept was bolstered further by the pair’s surroundings in Portland, Oregon. “There’s something really powerful about the changing of the seasons in the Northwest, the physical and psychic impact it has on you,” Johnson added.

The song titles alone reveal the theme of this first volume, ranging from death and fear to mentions of cults and Satan himself. It’s not for the faint hearted.

Opening track The Death Set introduces the dark undertones immediately, with its simplistic, undulating riff burrowing into the brain while softly swirling electronics blend with ominous percussion. It’s a brooding winner, with additional brain-melting guitars proving particularly exemplary.

Cold Fear, meanwhile, possesses genuine frostiness with Sanae Yamada’s keyboards recalling electronic pioneers like Kraftwerk alongside tripped-out waves of guitar fuzz. Creepin’ ups the tempo to sit alongside previous album openers like Wilding, from 2015’s ‘Shadow Of The Sun’, and Sleepwalker, from 2012’s ‘Circles’, as its addictive riff and familiar three-chord verse structure lead to more virtuoso work by Johnson.

Cross Town Fade’s propulsive beat recalls Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s Love Missile F1-11 from 1986, with trademark distorted vocals remaining challenging to decipher, while Cult Of Moloch’s mind-warping swirls will mesmerise. Will of the Devil moves back into the icy realms of spiky post-punk and new wave through its hypnotic repetition and unwavering percussion, with static-charged guitars then electrifyingly lighting the touchpaper.

Album closer White Rose, though, is monstrous. An epic in the key of E, the track races along as rabid krautrock, sci-fi keyboards and sprawling fuzz-guitar take the drone tolerance to a new level. But, despite its 10 minute length, you dread the arrival of the final note.

With the addition of tour drummer John Jeffrey on this LP the lines between Moon Duo and Johnson’s other band Wooden Shjips are becoming increasingly blurred. But, despite no longer being reliant on drum machines to kick out a beat, the electronic core remains intact for their fourth offering and, without doubt, ‘Occult Architecture Vol.1’ has again enhanced the band’s credibility, enjoying a consistency that perhaps eclipses their previous three collections. With the bar set so high for their Yin though, you wonder how the hell Yang will stand a chance.

Moon Duo Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed March 15 2017 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Northumbria University
Thu March 16 2017 - MANCHESTER Band on the Wall
Fri March 17 2017 - LONDON Heaven
Thu April 06 2017 - BRIGHTON Haunt
Fri April 07 2017 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Sat April 08 2017 - GLASGOW Stereo

Click here to compare & buy Moon Duo Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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