Posts Tagged ‘Moon Duo’

RSTB Best of 2019

2019’s drawing to a close, so I suppose this is the place to tie it all up. I’ve mentioned in years past that ‘best’ is a hard line to draw around the music from the year. From a blog perspective ‘favorite’ seems more appropriate, but then for all intents and purposes my choices are qualitatively the best to me, if not necessarily quantitatively best in the sense of the zeitgeist. The drive to figure out what’s best seems to just consolidate consensus and we’re all treated to dozens of lists that cross over with each other, especially in the top spots. I’ve long been a proponent of niche. I say long live finding your voice and letting others find theirs – we can all compare notes and discover new music in the process. I don’t need anyone to sand the edges and offer up a list that’s all inclusive. I like the edges. These are my favorites from a great year, edges and all.

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Moon Duo

The last time that Moon Duo graced a long player, they’d split their impulses up into dark and light – a duality that served them well, giving a showcase to their heavy psych hammer, but also their growing openness to more serene sources. They continue to tap the latter as they ease into the shimmer of Stars Are The Light, an album that finds the band diving into their love of dub’s endless embrace, disco’s euphoric lift, and the more open expanses of psychedelia where the genre invites listeners to loose oneself in sound and let the rhythms infect every pore. This time the tendrils of guitar wind around ever limb and digit. The sound permeates into the bodies systems, swimming in the blood and bile until it’s one with the listener.

The band has always had a pull towards the tendencies of their German Progressive forbears, finding a spot in the cave beside the Düüls (I or II), Guru Guru and Popul Vuh as they bounce sound off the stalactites of your consciousness. This time they go further from the mouth of that cave, letting the sounds disorient and the synths in particular sparkle like secret geodes lighting the way towards serenity. They too have pulled from the slow burn of Spacemen three, but here they seem to follow Sonic Boom on his travels through Spectrum and into the realms of E.A.R. They wind the more experimental production elements in an ache that’s rooted in their search for euphoria.

The shift is startling if listening to just one or two examples shuffled into their past output. Something like the title track, separated from the statement of Stars, when compared to the relative heavy groove back catalog crushers like “Slow Down Low” or “The Death Set” feels like being transported to a whole other planet of sound. Yet the glimmers have always been there – the gauzy strum of “In A Cloud,” the poppy sway of “Circles” – they all feed into what’s working through the veins of Stars Are the Light. Ripley and Sanae have found the balance, sawn off the fuzz yolk that held them fast to the legacy of Wooden Shjips and set themselves adrift into the cosmos here. The record is practically built for headphones as sounds bounce around in 3-dimensional drift, always anchored by the heartbeat skitter of rhythm that pulls the listener out of their shell and into the greater unknown.



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Moon Duo – “Lost Heads”

Another gem drops from the new Moon Duo record and this time its a headier bit of ballast than the last time around. Where the title track to Stars Are The Light sparkled with enough shimmer to warrant its title, “Lost Heads” is a deeper dive into what Moon Duo do best. The track pulses with rhythm — hot, humid, palpable — but it also drips with the usual streaked condensation and liquid guitar intensity that the band’s been known for. While this album is pushing closer to the disco vein this time around, this is not the track for the floor, or at least the dancefloor. This is more of a lying on your back, staring at the ceiling, trying to come down affair. Moon Duo have built a legacy on splitting the veil between darkness and light and this is one of those tracks tottering on the knife edge they wield so well. Still very excited to have these guys playing the site’s upcoming 13th anniversary in November. Check back for a new announcement on that next week. Good news a’comin’.




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Moon Duo – “Stars Are The Light”

Though there’s been plenty of activity through Ripley Johnson’s camp lately, its been a couple of years since we’ve heard from Moon Duo. The band is back with a new full length on September 27th and it marks a bit of a sonic shift for the band. Their last album was split into halves — a yin yang of light and dark, with Volume II skewing softer than the band had ever ventured. Still there was the familiar motorik grind bubbling underneath the strums, though. On “Stars Are The Light” the band bubbles along on an effervescent beat, vocals lost in a cloud of bliss and those familiar guitars lines still dripping but no longer lashing. Did the lightness win? Is this the celebratory sound at the end of the battle? I suppose the whole album will have to land in our laps before that question is answered.

For now this is a summer quencher from the Duo, wrapped up in artwork by RSTB favorite Ardneks and Sonic Boom is behind the mixing desk this time around. Turn this one up and let the breezes batter away your blues. Also, I’m very excited to be able to announce that, for you Upstate, upstate adjacent types, and city dwellers looking for an escape, the band will be playing RSTB’s 13th Anniversary this November. The show’s November 15th in Kingston, NY at BSP. Along with Moon Duo Jeffrey Alexander of Dire Wolves will be opening and one more very special guest that will be announced in August when the poster surfaces. Check back for that soon and pick up a ticket here.

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Vive La Void’s Sanae Yamada on Midori Takada – Through The Looking Glass

When this feature first found its footing one of the initial participants was Ripley Johnson from Moon Duo / Wooden Shjips who dug deep on a sorely lost Aussie stunner from Fabulous Diamonds. A year on, and quite a few more Gems later, its great to now have both halves of the duo represented with a pick from Ripley’s partner in crime Sanae Yamada. With dozens of great Moon Duo records in her portfolio, Yamada broke out solo with her hypnotic new outing this year as Vive La Void. I was intrigued to see what Yamada’s pick would be, given her background in synth / psych / Kosmiche and as always the picks wind up being great surprises that further add to my own need to get to the record store. Sanae picked the 1983 album, Through The Looking Glass, from Japanese percussionist Midori Takada. She goes in depth on how the record came her way and how its impacted her own writing.

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Wooden Shjips

With certain types of recreational drug use, or even meditation for that matter, there’s a point when the subject becomes detached from their current surroundings – a shift in time, an outside looking in feeling of calm introspection that lets slip the boundaries of pressing matters. In this stasis, somewhere between numbness and bliss, exists V the latest record from Wooden Shjips. The band seems to toss around that this is their “summer record” and to be sure there’s plenty here that compliments the staunch humid nights of mid-August swelter – Ripley Johnson’s guitars dripping through layers of wet reverb like condensation down a can, tempos slowed to a molten crawl, and bass that can’t be contained by rolled tight windows. More than merely a seasonal accoutrement, though, this record is a balm, a respite, a state of mind – or in the spirit of summer – a vacation from the current mudslide of daily life that threatens to consume us all.

With V the band has softened the focus on its trademark sounds – the fat, motorik rhythm section that slaps like waves against the breakwater, the sunlight suffused guitars that sparkle and ripple in equal measures and Johnson’s vocals that billow and diffuse in a cloud of vapor overhead. The enveloping warmth of this particular iteration of the band has added a few new moving parts as well. Are those strums peeking out of the haze on “Already Gone?” Were there always this many slinking keys in the Shjips’ universe? The vacation vibes bring on a prog haze that holds over from the lighter half of Moon Duo’s last experiment in duality and it feels like a missing puzzle piece found under the couch, perfectly cut to relieve the anxiety that was created in its absence.

Along with Cooper Crain (Cave, Bitchin’ Bajas) the band has created a perfect headphone record, adding further to the escape hatch mentality of the album. The aforementioned elements dance across the headspace in sketchbook animation while the bass acts as a barrier to the worries, realities, information overload and creeping dread that’s become a constant weight in 2018. For forty-two blissful, nebulous minutes Wooden Shjips let the listener breathe before the waters rise again. Best to gulp in a few last breaths, drop into the airtight bunker b ‘n b of sound and enjoy because those waters show no signs of slowing any time soon.





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Vive La Void

Most know Sanae Yamada as one half of Moon Duo, where her synths butt against Ripley Johnson’s guitars for a hypnotic grind that’s forever indebted to the German Progressives that came before them. During endless hours on the road with the Duo Yamada began work on a tangential venture, one that’s still buzzing with Kosmiche life, but taking on a much more introspective bent than Moon Duo. Vive La Void comes as an apt title for her solo work. The eponymous LP on Sacred Bones floats in a psychic ether, sandwiched between planes as it were – with insistent beats pillowing a steady pulse of synth tones and Yamada’s trapped under glass vocal delivery giving the project a dreamlike appeal.

The rhythms beg movement, a dance, a twitch even, but their contrast with the spectral vocals makes for a record that’s at odds with itself. Vive La Void is constantly pulling towards the calm float of sensory deprivation but forgetting to lock the lid on the capsule. The boombox grind from the outside ekes its way into Yamada’s dream and she and the listener are suspended in time watching the lights and imaginary dancers spin around us, partitioned by plexiglass just out of reach. As such her album takes on a slightly sinister quality, detached and appalled at the situation. Her alchemy makes for a standout debut from VLV, placing this far from side project status and well into the realm of dream pop purveyors of the highest order.




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Vive la Void – “Red Rider”

All things tangential to Moon Duo are heating up this year, with a new album on the way from Ripley’s Wooden Shjips and now the announcement of a new solo project from Sanae Yamada. The first track, “Red Rider,” paints the project in strokes of throbbing German Progressive, which isn’t a surprise given the Duo’s love for ’70s proggy Teutonic rock. Yamada injects her own brand of coldwave/dreampop to the proceedings, though, pushing the sound into mesmerizing waters. The accompanying video is delightfully psychedelic and dark. Down to see how this whole thing shakes out but loving this one for the moment.

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Wooden Shjips – “Staring At The Sun”

Looks like this year some perennial faves are cleaning up, with Amen Dunes already ditching any trappings of fuzzed psych for a dose of refined pop drippings, and now the cataclysmic scuzz of Wooden Shjips takes a back seat to languid puddles of guitar laced with strums on their latest. Actual strums on a Shjips track, I think that may be a first, but while the fire may not be the focus on “Staring At The Sun” there’s still plenty of psychedelic drip happening here. Between Moon Duo and Wooden Shjps, Ripley Johnson’s always been able to cull from the “Planet Caravan” school of warbled psych, but here he leans in hard. The guitarists can be heard flecking the track ever so slightly with growls of guitar but generally finds himself in the reclining position, going full Spiritualized to create a track that blossoms with bliss.

I’m all for a band’s evolution so this side of Wooden Shjips comes just as welcome as their clear-cut, Earth-mover gyrations. Interested to see if the full album submerges itself in the same cool waters, but for now this one is hitting very hard.


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RSTB Best of 2017

So this year is drawing to a close, or almost, we’re still a few weeks away from pushing the broken pieces of 2017 into the trash. There’s no real solace from a lot of the events that took place this year, but, independent of any current events, music has been kind to us all this year. These are the records that spent the most time on the turntable over here. Yeah, I know its kind of a lot, but there were far too many good ones that haven’t been getting the shouts they need elsewhere. Lets say this serves as both a best of and a most overlooked in one go. If you enjoy ’em, buy ’em if you can. Don’t do them the disservice of just bumping up the streaming numbers.

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