“The past and the present and the future/ Faith and hope and charity/ The heart and the brain and the body/ Will give you three” sang Bob Dorough of the magic number, one that informs the very basis of Moon Duo’s latest two-part release. Let’s first deal with the fact that Moon Duo are no longer a duo, not since guitarist Ripley Johnson and keyboardist Sanae Yamada welcomed touring drummer John Jeffrey into the fold for 2015’s ‘Shadow of the Sun’. It’s only apt that their fourth album should be recorded as a trio – three is, after all, the most venerated of all the occult numbers.
‘Occult Architecture’ is divided into two volumes playing on the dichotomous nature of the band itself, one volume representing Yin (‘the shady side of the hill’) and the other Yang (‘the bright side of the hill’). In accordance with the Chinese theory, the latter concerns itself with the male; sun, light and the spirit of heaven, while the Yin deals with the feminine; darkness, night, and earth. More eloquently channelling the ‘two cheeks of the same arse’ principle, keyboardist Sanae Yamada likens it to “two faces on the same head which stare always in opposite directions but are inextricably driven by the same brain.”
Krautrock and synthpop, fuzz and finesse; married with ease and agility on ‘Volume 1’ as Johnson’s guitar comes in over the backbeat with the ten-tonne fuzz of Search And Destroy on The Death Set. The Wooden Shjips man’s guitars provide the real muscle over these seven tracks, but never with a heavy hand – this is a record that just glides along, powered by relentless Motorik pistons.
‘Creepin’ is more of a glammed up rock’n’roller in the gnarled Royal Trux tradition, winding down into the frantic, forward-thrust 4/4 beat and repetitive single note synth motif of Cross-Town Fade. Will of the Devil infuses its proggy origins with touch of new wave – a corrupted Martha and The Muffins tripping on Echo Beach – with a gorgeous guitar refrain emerging every now and then from amidst Yamada’s dominating keys. It’s the guitars that take precedence once again on Cult of Moloch, phasing in and out, coursing from one ear to the next before reuniting in an enveloping fuzz and flurry of reverbed notes.
There’s a cohesion that wins out despite the same-y nature of what’s running through the tracks, largely down to the sounds and effects that Yamada and Johnson coax from their respective keys and guitars. Despite ‘Volume 1’ being considered the darker Yin segment of ‘Occult Architecture’, there’s lightness running through it that wins out over the more shadowy corners. In fact, if this is Moon Duo peering into the abyss, we can only speculate on the sugary psych that may present itself in the Spring when ‘Volume 2’ blooms into life.