Moon Duo: Mazes

Dazzling first full album proper from US twosome.

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

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.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.