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Moon Duo – Occult Architecture Vol. 2

  • Written by  Tom Bolton

If you missed Occult Architecture Vol. 1, released in February, you will be pleased to know that prior knowledge is not required to enjoy its companion piece. Moon Duo, an off-shoot of Wooden Shjips consisting of Erik Johnson and Sanae Yamada, are themselves only five albums into their career. Like the slow motion, glacial psychedelia in which they specialise, they've evolved at the speed of spaced out sloths, but evolved they have. While Vol 1 was a dark, sometimes satanic record, Vol. 2 is its inverse, full of light, hope and expanded minds.

The two Occult Architecture releases, broken in two partly because 90 minutes is a lot for one album, are undeniably Moon Duo records. They are deep-lying, underwater, troves, grooves buried in thick sand. Their echoes, like the band’s previous music, pull the rays of the sun down into the dark depths through guitar-heavy psychedelic sounds. However, the full weight of Escape, Mazes, and Circles has lifted a little. While not exactly a pop record, it has a lighter, more melodic atmosphere which connects back to The Electric Prunes, The Seeds and The 13th Floor Elevators, as well as Blue Cheer.

Opening track ‘New Dawn’ builds uncertainty before lurching into a familiar Moon Duo groove and soft, crooning vocal. However, tracks that follow are downright gorgeous, with titles that reflect the new levels of blessedness that the Duo have, through means best known to them, manage to achieve. If satori is not located somewhere within the joyful seven minutes of hi-hat shimmer and bouncing guitar that is ‘Mirror’s Edge’, we may as well abandon the search. ‘Sevens’ has effervescent drums and lyrics that are difficult to catch, but concern journeys around the sun. ‘Lost in Light’ then slows the same riff right down, to eerie effect, giving the vocals more echo and space, while guitars start to wail and screech. It is accompanied by a ludicrously psychedelic video. This is the still centre of the album, and the final track, ‘Crystal World’, resurfaces with a cheerful bongo beat and airy electronics.

Occult Architecture Vol. 2 requires full immersion, but then so does the rest of Moon Duo’s music. They do not compromise, diving straight in the deep end. If you are willing to follow, it can be hard to hear other music in the same way again. Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 together deal comprehensively with dark and light, good and evil, which is probably as much as you can ask from any band. If you liked Moon Duo before, you’ll like this. If you didn’t, Vol. 2 might just draw you into their trippy orbit.

Occult Architecture Vol. 2 is available via Amazon and iTunes. 

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