Posts Tagged ‘Sacred Bones’

Moon Duo

As the sequel, or rather, better half to their Occult Architecture Vol.1 from earlier this year, Vol. 2 acts as the softer side of the band’s motorik psych-punk universe. Where the first volume was steeped in anxiety, tension and darkness; the second volume is by turns blissful, celebratory even. Its still chugging along with a chainsaw grind and lysergic stabs of guitar via Ripley Johnson, but now the tone is relaxed and surprisingly languid. The albums form a duality or a complete picture, but taken on its own merits, Vol. 2 is still pushing into Moon Duo’s best work.

There are strums, I think perhaps a first for Moon Duo, or even Wooden Shjips’ catalog. There are genuine moments of resplendence, flipping the band’s Kosmiche switch from throb to fizz. The pair submerge into a milky bath of sound that’s pulsating with light and love and all the Springtime green feelings that may have eluded their grasp in the pursuit of Krautrock edge in the past. Instead, this is pure dreampop, a silken submergence into ionic bliss that can’t hold back its own giddiness. Sanae Yamada’s synths emerge as a key component here, floating in waves of magenta majesty primed to induce shudders in the listener. As part of the band’s Yin and Yang concept, this fills the bill nicely, but even left to its own devices, it’ll sate your hunger for higher consciousness grind for months to come.




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Moon Duo – “Lost In Light”

Just off the release of the first volume of their Occult Architecture series, Moon Duo announces pt. 2, leading off with a lighter side of their sound. As promised, the second volume strips back the night terrors and dives into the lush, ethereal arm of their recordings, winding up pillowing down into dreampop territory where the first went for nervy Krautrock. The song is a total bliss-out and given the video treatment again by Micah Buzan, who picks up with similar themes from the “Cold Fear” clip and coats Moon Duo’s world in a dizzying array of animation. The first volume was a total killer, so it goes without saying that I’ve got volume 2 high on the anticipation index for the year. Sounding great from the gate.

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Moon Duo

As Moon Duo continues to refine and coalesce their sound, they find themselves achieving a shimmering balance of malice and sweetness. Burrowing deep into an uneasy cocoon of Kosmiche and synth (provided by the band’s master texturist Sanae Yamada); the album buzzes, twitches and festers at times with an uncomfortable darkness that gets its hooks in you. It’s a quality that rears its head most prominently on standout single “Cold Fear” and the sinister “Will Of The Devil.” There’s a feeling of cold sweat, clammy palms and permanently bloodshot anxiety at work here and perhaps these are the feelings that serve this album as the dark-toned Yin in the two part album cycle that the band has embarked on. But if it were that simple, that cut and dry, then it would just grind the listener down under a boot heel of panic.

The album does play with fear and fever, but it breaks the sweat-soaked chaos into a neon lit blitz of speed and freedom. As much as any album of synth lapping Vangelis freaks want so badly to become the soundtrack to your dystopian thrill ride, I feel that Moon Duo might be hitting the vibe more accurately than any of those Korg temple acolytes ever could. The band is splitting the dark corners of Blade Runner with the dazzling imagery onslaught of The 5th Element here. It’s future pop as divined by stark realists with a smirking penchant for leaking optimism and excitement into their formula.

While Yamada is the world builder here, the extravagant paint splashes belong clearly to Ripley Johnson’s guitar work. His playing has always added the psychedelic spring in their motorik grind, but here he’s finding a fluidity that’s like liquid mercury turned to sound waves. Every time Johnson’s guitar surfaces from the frothing deep, it cuts in heated, glowing flashes that turn the world to steam in their wake. The combination of the two forces spins like tumblers in a lock, unleashing the band at an undoubtable peak. Now, one can only hope and wait for what the second piece of this puzzle holds.




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Moon Duo – “Cold Fear”

Too good not to post on this one. Moon Duo have a new video out for their song “Cold Fear,” which appears on the upcoming Occult Architecture Vol. 1. The clip, animated by Micah Buzan, premiered on Adult Swim last night, which seems rather fitting given the video’s hyper-saturated animation. Buzan captures the paranoid vibes of “Cold Fear” in a short that melts your face off like an Akira sweat lodge, pulsating with darkness and paranoia. The video also has echoes of recent blurred nightmare nighttime favorites like Ugly Americans and Rick and Morty, doubling back on their own EC Comics debts. The upcoming album is one of the band’s best, so its great to see them going all in on this one – from the visuals to the high-end packaging for the proposed two albums they’re releasing this year. If, for some reason, you’ve missed out on the band to date, start here.

Also be sure to check out RSTB’s Hidden Gems interview with the band’s Ripley Johnson.

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Ripley Johnson on Fabulous Diamonds – Commercial Music

Starting off the new year right with a new edition of Hidden Gems from Ripley Johnson (Moon Duo, Wooden Shjips). Hidden Gems explores albums that haven’t gotten their proper due over the years, as picked by RSTB’s favorite artists. Ripley selected Aussie psych duo Fabulous Diamonds’ third album Commercial Music, which was released by Chapter Music in 2012. Ripley explains why the album is such a slept on treasure and the impact its had on his own music.

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Moon Duo – “Cold Fear”

It’s a good day when there’s news of a Moon Duo album on the horizon. The pair have relocated from San Francisco to Portland and they’re turning seasonally affected mood swings into cold-hearted psych with a motorik heart and plenty of icy atmospheres. The track comes as the first taste of a projected two part album that spins Yin and Yang into counterpart albums of light and dark. “Cold Fear” is, naturally, from the darker half, Occult Architecture, Vol. 1. It’s an itching vein of synth fuzz heavily medicated with the Absinthe cocktail of Ripley’s guitar lines. Hushed and secretive, the vocals add a layer of mystery to this cold-wave killer while the lock-step pulse pushes the blood to a tight boil. The band has always lent itself well to this darker current and they’re at the top of their form with this one. Curious though to see how they temper the lighter side in Vol. 2. Lots to come from Moon Duo in 2017!




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Psychic Ills – “Baby”

I’ve sung plenty of praises on both Psychic Ills’ new album, Inner Journey Out and standout country psych jammer “Baby,” but pairing a perfectly hazy song with a faded, ’70s Urban Cowboy treatment warrants repeating how worth your time this one is. Jason Evans sums up the sweaty summer vibes and pent up “Gimme Shelter” simmer that the band have created on the song. He’s created characters that feel sympathetic and real, balancing their hope against the songs deep burn. Apparently this is only the first half as the video’s credits tease a part two to come. If you are still standing there, not owning this Ills record then I don’t know what else I can do to sway ya.

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Wymond Miles on Jacobites – Robspierre’s Velvet Basement

Hidden Gems is based on the idea of those records that are found along the way in life that you can’t believe you never heard about, the ones that just blow you away on first listen and seem like such a find. The kind of records that get left out of all the essential decade lists and 1001 records you need to hear before you die type of listicle. The ones that got away. For the second installment in the series, I asked Wymond Miles, member of Fresh & Onlys and solo artist in his own right to take his pick at an essential piece of the past. He picked Nikki Sudden & Dave Kusworth’s 1985 sophomore LP as the Jacobites, Robspierre’s Velvet Basement. I asked Wymond how this lovely piece of the post-punk landscape came into his life and what the record means to him.

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Wymond Miles – Call By Night

On his third solo album for Sacred Bones, Wymond Miles pares back his sound while delving deep into the heart of pain and past with traumas both new and old. The album calls back to Miles’ youth in small working class towns, a side of America that’s been thrust into the light of day harder than ever this year. For those that grew up in the heartland among the flat expanses, endless highways and smell of carbide deeply ingrained into every fiber of life, its a bleak reminder as Miles unfolds a life less charmed in blistering black and white. For Miles, his towns lie further to the West than the rust belt ruts of my own youth. A land of promise from the turn of the century on, offering endless vistas and a life less managed and just as often offering a life less fruitful and quietly suffocating. Its a landscape that was built up high and only had further to fall from grace. Like the American South, the West has its billboard towns and vacation centers but on the other side of any vacation town lie those who’d love nothing more than for their tenure in town to end.

Call By Night touches on war’s human scars and youth’s permanent marks, and in his framing, Miles backs off a touch on the overt touches of Echo and the Bunnymen that have swathed his earlier records. There’s still a grandeur to this one, but its stripped clean and simple, like wire ready to be harnessed to a spark. Miles’ voice is up close and booming in your ears like an accusation. The songs are sparse, not to the point of being empty, but unfettered in a way that gives them a bigger punch when he unlooses his demeanor. The tension is thick, like the wounds never healed, feeling as if he picks at the bandage it might all unravel. And sometimes it does, such as when he burns the world down on the devastating centerpiece “Divided In Two.” He’s been an integral part of Fresh & Only’s dark pop corners and it seems that after his sophomore album he almost packed it in, but as Call By Night can attest, its a good thing he had another one to get out of him. This is Miles at his best and a boon to those souls curled under the covers waiting for the dawn to come each day.

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Psychic Ills

Psychic Ills have spent a career playing to their particular whims and tacking them to the same name so kudos to not necessarily feeling that a new direction warrants a new band outright. People evolve and change and the band’s let the Ills name tag along through their phases. True there’s a part of me that has a hard time believing that the sunburnt country on display on Inner Journey Out – dappled with the buttery slide of steel pedal and fuzzed ever so slightly with strums – is the same band I saw sweltering in the July heat at the old McCarren pool in BK with a handful of faithful stragglers. But though the noise of those days is gone, baked off and smoothed into an excellently world-weary sigh, they’re still the same psychic troubadours at heart. The songs are ringed with smoke that languidly curls in effortless rings. The album has the feeling of having seen the world and finding yourself older, but not mellowed, just more accepting of the fact that the din (or Dins as it may be) isn’t the only way to kick up dust.

One Track Mind hinted at the shift in tone, but even then there weren’t the orange and cream tones that seem to color the bulk of Inner Journey Out. This is an album steeped in motel balcony nights, when the air is warm and thick… desert nights. There’s little about the album that feels tied to the city, or the East Coast for that matter. Its dusted with the squint of sun through dried palms and the heat warbled tilt of orange as it dips below the horizon. The band’s spent a long time getting to this point but, to be honest, wearied experience looks good on them. This is the sounds of a band playing with texture and writing what feels honest, even if its not tied to what’s expected. The album is psychedelic without putting your face in it. Like a trick of the light, its got more than one side that shows at any given time. Blink and it changes in a blur.



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