Fans of San Franciscan psych-rockers Wooden Shjips may already be familiar with Moon Duo, the side project of extravagantly bearded leader Ripley Johnson and his partner Sanae Yamada.
A couple of prior EPs have posited them as droney experimentalists in the vein of Suicide and VU, but nothing quite prepares you for this terrific full debut. It’s brighter, for a start, with opener Seer splashing onward via sustained keyboards and guitar into a mighty cosmic wibble that stretches the six-minute mark.
Once they were largely minimal; now they favour bold, accessible hooks and pounding rhythms. Wooden Shjips draw much of their primal power through repetition at worryingly high volume, but Moon Duo – for the most part – do it through texture and melody.
The cavernous Fallout, for example, achieves sensory overload with a bucking riff that suddenly latches on to a razorwire rhythm, before being swamped by mounds of fuzz guitar. It’s the same with When You Cut, which sounds like Silver Apples and a 60s garage band making merry hell with banks of keyboard effects and overdriven guitar.
There’s still the sense of a ritualistic layering of pure sound – a la Spacemen 3, or indeed the Shjips themselves – but Mazes is altogether more playful. Still a heck of a racket, mind.