THE ONLY limit to an artist’s stylistic potency in this age of information is their ability to absorb the sacred vibrations of their record collection without sounding derivative. Guitarist/vocalist Erik “Ripley” Johnson seems to have an alchemist’s understanding of this balance.
His two main projects, Moon Duo and Wooden Shjips, are a culmination of each collective’s knowledge of vinyl obscurities, and while both bands famously ensconce themselves within a velvety Krautrock vortex, it’s the pastoral keyboard play of Johnson’s partner Sanae Yamada that puts Moon Duo on a more buoyant sonic perch. Her playful sine waves envelope the group’s fuzz like a Möbius strip, and provide a dreamy mattress for Ripley’s distinctly Spacemen 3-inspired vocal tropes and death rock guitar hypnosis.
Moon Duo’s latest offering, Occult Architecture Vol. 1, is the first in a pair of albums. It glorifies the shared musicology between the band’s principal protagonists and conjures deep references within each track like pagan runes in a musical séance. For example, “Cold Fear” works as an homage to early ’80s cold wave tape music with its goth-pop aesthetic and frigid vocal interplay. “Cross-Town Fade” tips a scintillating cap to powerful parts of Devo. On the propulsive “Creepin,” they seem to be channeling the ghosts of Stereolab’s halcyon dirges. “White Rose,” the album’s epic closer, carries the distinct air of classic Hawkwind in all its psychotropic relentlessness.
There’s also the welcome presence of touring drummer John Jeffrey and his cache of metronomic mantras to solidify the proceedings with a pulse of organic togetherness. The Stooges-like stomp that fuels soaring opening track “The Death Set” and the sinister 3/4 snap underpinning the exploding guitar borealis of “Cult of Moloch” are testaments to his creativity with repetition.
With Occult Architecture Vol. 1, Moon Duo have constructed an astral puzzle that stimulates the mind like an acid-tinged encyclopedia and soothes the soul with timekeeping you can touch. The resulting soundscapes are a perfect homage to the spirits of London, San Francisco, and Cologne’s psychedelic revolutions.