Review: Moon Duo – Circles
Published on October 3rd, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Sanae Yamada and Wooden Shijps guitarist Eric “Ripley” Johnson remain wired into The Everlasting Groove, so if you heard/endured/totally wigged out to their Mazes LP of last year then you should know more or less what to expect on Circles. It’s certainly an acquired taste, but the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-chorus brigade – to which Rocksucker would reluctantly subscribe – may find it possible to delight in the challenge presented, not least because it’s dripping with psychedelic goodness.
Straight from the off, opener “Sleepwalker” evidences a brighter, bolder and more colourful production, one befitting of the album’s artwork, but all the Moon Duo hallmarks remain: the aforementioned Everlasting Groove (notice how every track ends with a fade-out, thusly implying an eternal existence in some other realm), the motorik beat, the fuzzy psych guitar, and the semi-whispered acid vocals dripping all over it like melting candle wax. Yes, that’s the second time in as many paragraphs that we’ve used the word ‘dripping’, but it’s a good word to describe Moon Duo.
A friend of Rocksucker’s (and occasional contributor) who was attendant as we listened to Circles had this to say: “It’s so hypnotic, I didn’t even realise we were listening to it for a moment.” You see, Moon Duo might not jump out at you, might not be your cup of tea whatsoever, but the sound they make is so thoroughly intertwined with the universe that it can blend into its surroundings, in a good way rather than a ‘coffee table blandness’ kind of way. Our friend’s follow-up comment of “we need kaleidoscopes to appear in front of our eyes” testifies to the effect of going the other way and actually engaging with it.
The riffs go on, and on, and on, but they make it work on the basis that the mix, and not songwriting, is their artist’s palette. “I Can See” wields a spooky organ that brings to mind their Halloween EP Horror Tour, also of last year, while the title track could almost be described as summery with its light female backing vocals and major key progression; then, much like, summer, it fades away as our brief channeling of its own particular eternity recedes and we are floated to the next dimension/realm/planet/consciousness/what have you.
The lean, mean ‘n’ chugging “I Been Gone” erupts into frankly demonic lead guitar, “Sparks” throws up some upwardly-beamed sci-fi sounds, and…well, as Circles goes on there seems to be gradually less with which to distinguish between tracks, especially since Ripley’s vocal delivery renders the lyrics virtually inaudible. However, “Free Action” makes a bold claim for attention by throwing a bouncing, pounding pulse ‘neath the usual haze of fuzzy psychedelia, this time supplemented by a subtly surprising melodic twist and even a hand-clapping motif. It’s a psychedelic Hoedown, folks!
“Trails” surfs on a guitar part rooted in pop (albeit one swamped in hazily distorted atmospherics), a touch of gospel applied by sustained organ notes and sweet female backing vocals, but there’s little about eight-minute closer “Rolling Out” to write home about, at least not in terms of surprise.
That’s Moon Duo for you: sometimes it feels like they’re onto something special, but the autopilot is given too much rein elsewhere. Perhaps they like the idea of testing the listener, or are even amused by it, and Rocksucker has no beef with this in these inane, One Direction-worshiping times. That we’ve come away from a Moon Duo album feeling confused, conflicted and intrigued for the second year running…well, you gotta hand it to them.
Rocksucker says: Three Quails out of Five!
Circles is out now on Souterrain Transmissions. For more information, please visit moonduo.org