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Moon Duo - Stars Are The Light (Album Review)

Friday, 04 October 2019 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Brett Johnson

Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada, the husband and wife duo at the heart of Portland electro-psych act Moon Duo, wanted to reflect a multitude of changes on their seventh album ‘Stars Are The Light’.

With motorik drone serving as their trademark sound for a decade, the decision to take inspiration from disco, in particular, marks a considerable change in itself. As a result, the two-part ‘Occult Architecture’ venture from 2017, which explored both light and dark, seems like it occurred aeons ago.

The title track, which doubled as lead single, is typically mesmerising, sparkling like the brightest of stars. Similarly, the six minute Lost Heads is somewhat mind-blowing.

A sprinkling of magic adorns the intro before a hypnotic keyboard riff takes over, leading to the sort of amazing guitar solo that Johnson has admirably weaved into so many Moon Duo and Wooden Shjips tracks over the years.

With Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 on mixing duty, there’s plenty of encouragement for the repetitive, droning core Moon Duo have tended to favour, but in other places it works less well than on the first two singles. Eternal Shore features Sanae as lead vocalist as well as lyricist, but it feels like the earlier magic is missing. Similarly, the familiar three-chord progression of closer Fever Night drags its heels.

A notable aspect of previous albums has been the way opening tracks instantly grab the listener, with both 2012’s ‘Circles’ (Sleepwalker) and 2015’s ‘Shadow of the Sun’ (Wilding) two outstanding examples. Here, though, Flying opens the album in far simpler fashion as a chilled groove kicks in to create a relaxed, summery vibe with the usual spacey guitar noodling peppering the surface.

Fall (In Your Love) is slow and brooding, with a Duane Eddy-like twang that fails to inspire OMD synths, and The World And The Sun’s monotone vocals and shuffling beat also fall a little short. There’s more life, however, in Eye 2 Eye as Giorgio Moroder-style keys create a more upbeat, buzzing body.

At just eight tracks, most around the four minute mark, the album feels too short and it fails to follow through on the promise offered by the first two singles. Despite disco being an inspiration, ‘Stars Are The Light’ is not an album you could stick on at a party. It has its moments, and Lost Heads is a contender for Moon Duo’s best track, but they’ve done better and they’ll do better again.

Moon Duo Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon October 28 2019 - LONDON EartH (Theatre)
Tue October 29 2019 - MANCHESTER Dancehouse Theatre
Wed October 30 2019 - LIVERPOOL Invisible Wind Factory
Thu October 31 2019 - GLASGOW BAad, Glasgow
Fri November 01 2019 - BIRMINGHAM Crossing
Sat November 02 2019 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Mon November 04 2019 - BRIGHTON St Bartholomew's Church

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

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