Moon Duo – Whammy! November 26, 2015

Moon Duol_PhotobyTeylorMoss_26Nov15-0252An auspicious night to witness the San Francisco based psychedelic space-rock outfit Moon Duo, for t’was a full moon as I made my way along a hot and humid K Road to subterranean Whammy Bar.

Wooden Shjips guitarist Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada comprise the official line-up, with Johnson’s wailing guitar lines swirling around Yamada’s pulsating keys. A drummer completed the incredibly tight band tonight, pounding out cyclical drum grooves that totally held the melodies in place.

Moon Duol_PhotobyTeylorMoss_26Nov15-0175They kicked off with Wilding, the opener of their latest offering Shadow Of The Sun; released in March this year. This LP is their third full length studio offering and takes the sound they developed on 2011’s Mazes and 2012’s Circles – namely a unique take on post-modern psychedelic droney space-rock – I hear hints of Spiritualised in their early incarnation, also the earlier Spacemen 3 and even hints of BRMC on their more psychedelic outings. But there is something clearly their own that permeates Moon Duo’s sound – they may be influenced by a wide range of acts of the past, including the West Coast US psychedelic acts of late sixties, punk rock, and UK 90’s indie space rock such as the aforementioned Spiritualised, but they manage to avoid sounding derivative, putting their own stamp on the genre.

Moon Duol_PhotobyTeylorMoss_26Nov15-0254A gritty urgency underlies catchy hooks and endlessly circling basslines played on the keyboards of Yamada, an urgency which grounds their music and avoids the abstract, aloof nature that much psychedelic music has. The mix was strong and well balanced, and the trio hit their stride straight away. Echoing reverb-drenched vocals shimmered over the syncopated grooves and hypnotic moog playing, close your eyes and you could believe you were in Haight-Ashbury 1967. But alas you were quickly enough dragged back into this less innocent era by some cell-phone obsessed people insisting on taking footage of the show over their head. Ban phones at gigs, do it now!

Moon Duol_PhotobyTeylorMoss_26Nov15-0127Anyway- back to the show. One song almost segued into another, as kaleidoscopic projections danced on the low beams of the ceiling and on the backs of punters. The instrumental songs worked better in general, as the words were not always discernible due to being overly drowned in reverb and echo / delay. The insistent groove Moon Duo create makes it impossible not to move to the beat, in that sense dance-space-drone-psych-rock may be the best moniker for this unique sound, silly as pigeonholing sub-genres is if it must be done they need a multiple compound label!

The playing was musical – as well as managing to be raw and expressive. This is no mean feat, as any musician knows.   The guitar solos from Johnson were shredded over the peals of organ in economically tight song structures. His parts were never meandering and lost as some explorers of this genre can be, but rather focussed melodic parts that sat well over the other instruments.

Moon Duo is off to Japan next, I wish them well on their tour and hope they return to the South Pacific again soon!

Stephen Allely

Photos courtesy Teylor Moss