Full Moon

Moon Duo arrived on stage on Tuesday night at the Dancehouse, taking up their places inside the four-sided tent set up for them to perform inside, Ripley with guitar stage right in jeans, t-shirt and trucker cap and Sanae Yamada stage left behind a rack of keys and synths, in silver smock and black PVC trousers. Behind them drummer John Jeffrey, long haired and channelling the motorik beat of Klaus Dinger but faster and louder. At the back of the stage three projectors throw films, patterns, colours, shapes, roads, tower blocks, snowstorms and fractals onto the trio as they play, an intense and stunning lightshow. The strobe flashes away and at times the backlighting throws up Moon Duo in silhouette, on the screen at the front, giving the impression of two Moon Duos playing at once.

During the dozen or so songs they barely look at the audience, instead locked into each other and the groove. The synth chatters away between songs, the sounds of birdsong and crickets. John Jeffrey triggers the drum machine and then piles in on the live kit and they’re off, Sanae filling the venue with drones and noise, synth bass and texture and the drums powering forward, glorious repetition. Over the top Ripley finds the space to glide over the top, his guitar playing alternately Stooges like riffs and dripping, molten solos. The twin vocals are smothered in reverb. Opener Flying kick starts the evening, a half paced shuffle with spacey, cosmic synths. Most of the rest of Stars Are The Light, released just a few weeks ago, is aired, the drones, melodies, phased vocals and the lightshow bouncing round the stage and the room. The dreamy Lost Heads is a psychedelic delight, The World And The Sun is way out, up into the rafters and into the sky. Centrepiece to the set is the epic White Rose, the ten minute highlight of 2017’s Occult Architecture Vol 1, a synth driven, dark ride into the night, a menacing and ferocious slow burn. The main set closer Sevens is half Hendrix and half Neu! Ducking under the back wall of the tent the Moon Duo trio return for an encore finishing with their cover of Alan Vega’s Jukebox Babe, a two note synth bump and grind, guitar lines fired off as Ripley croons the pared back lyrics. Sometimes the most memorable gigs take place at the weekend, everyone fired up by the freedom from work and lubricated, singing along. Sometimes though they can take place on a cold and sober Tuesday night, tucked away in small art deco theatres away from the bigger, brighter lights. Moon Duo are on fire at the moment, playing to small audiences and showing the possibilities of music that dates back decades but is still just up ahead. If they’re playing anywhere near you, go see them.

White Rose

Lost Heads

We’re back. A day’s drive from southern Brittany yesterday with a three hour pause while the ferry captain took over saw us get through the door at just before midnight. The coastline and beaches with their clusters of pine trees and beautiful, golden-to-deep-blue dusks seem a long way away now. The Atlantic coast near Royan is wonderful, packed full of coves and beaches and forests, lots of places to stop and wile away the hours. South Brittany, particularly round the estuary of the river Odet and the town of Benodet is also a lovely place with miles of rocky coastline, some sandy beaches, the undulating Breton countryside and cheap wine and food.

While we were gone Britain seems to have been overtaken by a right wing coup, led by an English, No Deal fanatic and his cronies. Keeping in touch at a distance was pretty depressing and after a few days I tried to ignore political events in the UK as far as possible. Meanwhile a dam not too far from here threatened to collapse and destroy the town of Whaley Bridge. Local roads here were flooded, the Mersey was at an all time high, routes to the airport closed.

Here’s a new hit of summer psych- disco from Moon Duo, Ripley’s guitar falling in sun dappled waves and droplets over the beat with some very laid back twin vocals. The album is out at the end of September but the songs released so far seem perfect for August.

 

Stars Are The Light

Moon Duo have a new album out at the end of September, an announcement that brings me great joy. The new one sees Ripley and Sanae Yamada dig into the sections of their record collections that contain the disco and rave 12″ singles. Ripley’s usual fluid guitar playing and Sanae’s synths are still there but it’s a definite move on from the darker, motorik grooves of the Occult Architecture albums of two years ago- the synths glisten and shimmer, yep, like stars in the inky black sky. Gently trippy. It was recorded in Portugal at the Mountains of the Moon with Sonic Boom on production and mixing. I think Moon Duo (and by extension Wooden Shjips) may be favourite current band.

Round The Old Jukebox In The Candy Store

Brian pointed out the day before yesterday that when putting together an end of year list it is always the case that you’ll miss or forget something. I agreed. The other situation is buying a record after posting the end of year list that then becomes a clear contender for said list (I spent some Christmas money in Piccadilly Records two days ago on just such an album, which I imagine I’ll come back here to in a few days time). The record I forgot about was Moon Duo’s 12″ single from January, a pair of covers that I should have put in my list. The first was their version of Alan Vega’s 1981 single Jukebox Babe, a two chord homage/motorik groove…

Jukebox Babe

Vega’s original is New York rockabilly at the turn of the 80s, brittle and wired…

Jukebox Babe

The other side of the Moon Duo 12″ was a slowed down cover of No Fun. Today is New Year’s Eve and I shall be back later if I find the time get something else written for the end of 2018. See you tonight.

White Rose

I am in a bit of a Moon Duo/Wooden Shjips groove right now and have been returning to the pair of albums Moon Duo released last year, Occult Architecture 1 and 2. The first volume was closed by a final track that was a scorching, repeating and hypnotic delight, White Rose. While digging on the internet last week I found some live versions that are superb. This one was filmed for a session with KEXP and is a masterclass. Once that drumbeat sets off and the drone gets going it could quite happily go on and on and on…

And then I found this one from a festival called Endless Daze held in South Africa last year, which is like the other one but even more so, especially Ripley’s reverb drenched guitar playing.

Sleepwalk

Celebrate the arrival of Friday and the weekend with this- a free download of an Aron Ya reworking of Moon Duo’s Sleepwalk (if trancey, psychedelic, repetitive, acid drenched drone rock is your bag. And if it isn’t, why isn’t it?)

Jukebox Babe

My love of San Francisco drone hippy-punks Moon Duo is well documented. They have a new 12″ out today, a pair of covers. One of them is a version of No Fun by The Stooges that they worked up when appearing on 6 Music for Iggy’s 70th birthday (and it gives me an excuse to use this picture of Iggy a friend shared on social media recently). The other is a cover of Alan Vega’s 1981 single Jukebox Babe, an exercise in repetition and reverb that will take some beating. Both were recorded/produced by Sonic Boom, who knows a thing or two about repetition.