THE DOWN-TO-EARTH space cadets in psychedelic two-piece Moon Duo secluded themselves in Blue River, Colorado, of all places, to record their latest LP, Circles. The Rocky Mountain high must have done them right, as the new songs lurk in the shadows while inexplicably dancing in the spotlight at the same time. Circles feels so warm and fuzzy not because of Moon Duo's environs, but rather because they cut themselves off from everyday distractions.
"The thing about Colorado is it's really sunny there—blue skies, snowcapped mountains, the evergreens," says keyboardist/vocalist Sanae Yamada. "But to me the album feels cohesive in a different way, because it was recorded in one stretch. The isolation made it easier to focus."
Moon Duo's minimalist noise pop has always managed to work even when it seems like it shouldn't. Yamada and guitarist-vocalist Ripley Johnson do a lot with very little, allowing motorik beats to give them necessary space for guitars and synths that swarm in and out of earshot. Even the band's most dissonant voyages into Krautrock, dating back to their 2009 debut EP, hinted at endless pop possibilities.
For Johnson, Moon Duo was a diversion from his band, San Francisco psych mainstays Wooden Shjips; Yamada, on the other hand, was making her maiden voyage into rock. "I wanted to get back to playing music," says Yamada, a former teacher who took piano lessons growing up. "We just started playing. I felt like it was a risk worth taking."
Moon Duo made the move to Portland from the Bay Area this August, which might be news to most, considering the two-piece spends much of their time on the road. It's where they'll be until mid-December. But making Circles—on which the band spent more time than any previous full-length—has the members eager to explore the studio even more.
Yamada's recent rediscovery of Stereolab has her exploring new sounds, and she says that just because Moon Duo use repetition in their songs (to great effect), doesn't mean they fear change. "We don't want to be boring," she says. "I think we're open to anything outside of what we do. Anything is possible."