Yet to be a convert or to join the adulatory cult that surrounds the Wooden Shjips, I’ve found myself suspiciously watching their underground rise from afar. Usually eulogised as the new cosmic outriders of drug induced experimentation and pastoral hypnotic comatosed droning Krautrock; they’ve moved towards a form of slightly more bouncy “Californian psych vibe” compositions, under the sideline project heading of the Moon Duo.
The courting couple of Riply Johnson and Sanae Yamada re-arrrange the inspired musical moods of Cluster, Hawkwind and, to some extant, the gloriously deranged magnificence of Royal Trux; creating an envisioned motoring soundtrack for a journey that begins in “San Francisco” and ends at “Santa Cruz”.
Accompaning the entire roadtrip is the looming presence of the melodic swirling riffs: oh yeah it’s all about the riffs, a deliriously repetitive stubborn creature in the hands of these Moon runners. Their 8-track meditative acid-fuzz and humming opsicule album, Mazes, sways between moments of hardcore dirgy space rock, as in evidence on Seer, and the Kraftwerk meets Devo fun casio jaunt of the title track. The guitars are thin, gangly and humbly honest, evoking the welcoming aura of the Spaceman 3, Velvet Underground, and especially on Run Around, the reverb erratic phrases of Faust‘s Rudolf Sosna. The backing is made up of a varried intersteller flight deck of keyboards, melletrons and hammonds that either hoover high above the stratosphere or come on all parochial and crash down upon an Earthly moross lanscape, imbued with the atmosphere of Suicide and The Normal. Flying in below the rader Johnson’s mumbling vocals sound like an incantation; their clearly audioable but prove to be so low in the mix as to be just another layer of ether, absorbed from the 5th Dimension.
In short the Moon Duo pecede with a clever use of sonic psych influences and highly effective, infectious, indolent leitmotifs – even if their brand of West Coast American drug indulged esoteric production isn’t exactly new – and perform with a knowing aloofness. Certainly one of 2011’s highlights thus far.