Q (UK) - - Incoming - AN­DREW PERRY

For any fan of proper, reach-for-the-stars space-rock, Moon Duo are the dream ticket. The hus­band-and-wife team of gui­tarist Erik “Ri­p­ley” John­son and synth-player Sanae Ya­mada have been to­gether since 2009, ini­tially as a par­al­lel project to John­son’s more straight-ahead, two-gui­tars psy­che­delic combo, Wooden Shjips. After the cou­ple re­lo­cated from San Fran­cisco to Colorado (briefly), then to the ru­ral en­vi­rons of Port­land, Ore­gon, con­ven­ing Shjips be­came in­creas­ingly prob­lem­atic, so Moon Duo took flight. This year, they’ve fired off not one, but two fab­u­lously cos­mic LPs, which en­cap­su­late their tune­ful and util­i­tar­ian slant on trance-in­duc­ing psych-rock. Called Oc­cult Ar­chi­tec­ture Vol. 1 & 2, these records’ crys­talline grooves ar­rive swathed in sleek mod­ernist art­work, alongside ex­plana­tory no­tions of each disc rep­re­sent­ing one side of the yin-yang du­al­ity – the first sig­ni­fy­ing the dark, the sec­ond jour­ney­ing into the light. “The dark one isn’t all about doom and gloom,” grins John­son, be­fore a gig in sunny Brighton. “Some of the songs are kinda poppy. It’s not nec­es­sar­ily down­beat.” “We think of it more in terms of the in­ter­nal, and en­closed spa­ces,” adds Ya­mada. “The dark­ness you have in a room, or the dark­ness of si­lence, ver­sus the light as more out­ward-reach­ing, ex­pand­ing and seek­ing.” In per­son, John­son and Ya­mada are not the com­mune-dwelling ston­ers one might imag­ine: they’re amenable, co­her­ent, thought­ful. Their vision of bi­nary op­po­sites took shape as they ac­cli­ma­tised to Ore­gon. “All of a sud­den, you’re liv­ing in a place that has very dis­tinct sea­sons,” John­son en­thuses. Ya­mada talks of “a nat­u­ral drama un­fold­ing around you the whole time – a real true sum­mer, where it’s su­per-hot for three months straight and never rains.” “Then you get the long dark win­ter,” John­son con­tin­ues, “where you hike in these mossy woods, but mostly hi­ber­nate in­doors. But that’s cool: we bunker down in our base­ment and get cre­ative.” Such clear-cut me­te­o­rol­ogy will sound idyl­lic to Bri­tish ears, and Moon Duo’s mu­sic is an equally per­fect as­sem­bly of in­flu­ences. “When I first pro­posed the idea of a band to Sanae,” John­son re­calls, “I was like, ‘It’ll be like [ synth-punks] Sui­cide, but with gui­tar’. That’s how in­flu­ences work: you take some­thing, and push it fur­ther.” They soon launched off to­wards pul­sat­ing fu­sions of FX’d gui­tar and shim­mer­ing synths, scrubbed up with a con­tem­po­rary sheen. The “oc­cult” part of the LPs’ ti­tles refers to their be­lief in mu­sic as “an un­ex­plain­able force”, the “ar­chi­tec­ture” to their lay­er­ing of sound. With a new light show and tour­ing drum­mer, mean­while, their gigs are a son-et-lu­mière rev­e­la­tion. “This band is re­ally easy,” John­son con­tent­edly sum­marises. “We like be­ing to­gether, and we’re to­gether all the time.” Son­i­cally speak­ing, too, it’s a mar­riage made in heaven.


Lu­nar land­ings: happy cou­ple Erik “Ri­p­ley” John­son and Sanae Ya­mada step into the light.

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