Moon Duo at XOYO, London - live review

Far-out duo beam into east London

A crowd at a prog gig
(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

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The small spot beam lights that are strategically placed behind the band are conspiring to not only reveal Moon Duo – all three of ’em! – as silhouettes, but also to beguile the wide-mouthed audience watching on.

As the shards of probing lights alternate from white rays to all colours of the spectrum, hands instinctively shoot up as if to grab something that can never be held. And as those beams strafe and hypnotise, it becomes hard not to utter the words, “My God! It’s full of stars!” while recalling Dr Bowman’s intergalactic trip through the star gate at the climax of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The notion that Moon Duo have nothing left to offer so soon after last year’s promotional campaign for both volumes of Occult Architecture is understandably prevalent, yet any doubts are dispelled within moments of the band taking the stage.

The familiarity that surrounds opener The Death Set simultaneously thrills and comforts, and Moon Duo’s blend of motorik precision, guitars that switch gears from warm fuzz to silky, six-string meandering, and insistent and pumping synthesised basslines elicits a sense of welcome familiarity.

Aiming for the hips just much as it does the head, Moon Duo’s brand of space rock is possessed of a strike rate that doubles the pleasure. Naysayers may scoff at the simplicity of their attack, but the trance‑like result of their music allows for cerebral exploration, in tandem with more instinctive and physical reactions.

As evidenced by the extended sonic excursions of White Rose and Free Action, the band are at their best when they’re disregarding the concept of time by getting off on elongated explorations. It’s during those moments that self conscious thought becomes a meaningless concept, as the body reacts in time with the pulses, beats and repetitive rhythmic embellishments emanating from the speakers.

There’s a fear that Moon Duo perhaps reveal too much of their modus operandi with telling covers of Alan Vega’s Jukebox Babe and The Stooges’ No Fun. While there’s undeniably enough of their own personality and stylistic approach to ensure that these aren’t straightforward readings – the rockabilly looseness of the former is replaced by an electronic exactitude, while the nihilism of the latter surrenders to a new-found warmth – it does feel a little bit like a magician revealing exactly where his doves are located.

However, these caveats are ultimately blown away like so much cosmic dust. Only the sternest of hearts or churlish of minds can withstand Moon Duo’s simplistic yet seductive attack. These are musical miners digging a groove as deep as it is wide, and once again they’ve struck a rich seam of gems.

Julian Marszalek is the former Reviews Editor of The Blues Magazine. He has written about music for Music365, Yahoo! Music, The Quietus, The Guardian, NME and Shindig! among many others. As the Deputy Online News Editor at Xfm he revealed exclusively that Nick Cave’s second novel was on the way. During his two-decade career, he’s interviewed the likes of Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and Ozzy Osbourne, and has been ranted at by John Lydon. He’s also in the select group of music journalists to have actually got on with Lou Reed. Marszalek taught music journalism at Middlesex University and co-ran the genre-fluid Stow Festival in Walthamstow for six years.