Moon Duo has been synonymous with psychedelic rock since their inception a decade ago, blending Ripley Johnson’s saturated guitars and Sanae Yamada’s spacey synths over motorik beats, with John Jeffrey’s intense timekeeping on the drum kit added a few years ago for live shows. Together, these wizards weave complex patterns of looping, droning psychedelia filled with each individual’s intricate contributions, be it John’s incredibly quick, blink-and-you-miss-’em drum fills, Sanae’s perfect synth stabs signaling the mother ship to come in for a landing, or the divine precision of Ripley coaxing his guitar to speak in tongues.
Their latest album Stars Are The Light reveals an exploration of a space disco dance sound while still retaining that unmistakable Moon Duo signature sound. Bringing those songs to the stage allowed the duo-plus-one to take all the album tracks further-er-er, pushing the audience to keep on grooving and moving throughout the extended versions; the de rigueur droned-out head-bobbing would simply not suffice.
Due to Moon Duo’s expansive and precise stage setup, Umberto’s piano and synths occupied floor space in front of the stage at Lodge Room. As the fog machine at his feet began to envelope him in billowing clouds, Umberto raised background noise to provide an ambient background hum for his gentle piano, combining sounds of classic ambient tunes like The KLF’s Chill Out and Moby’s Ambient to forge his own take on the genre.
The crowd stayed with him as long as possible, growing a bit restless after the third song, at which point Umberto moved from piano to synths and started introducing slow acid loops that would be familiar on the dance floor at 125BPM, but instead provided an eerie mental echo of long lost nights when played much slower, recapturing the crowd and priming them for the drone fest that would follow.
Once Umberto’s piano was lugged off to the side and the crowd hungrily pressed in, Moon Duo took to the stage one by one, Sanae first creating their spacey intro followed by Ripley adding gentle guitar noodling/tuning until John got situated behind his kit, ready to let loose upon the crowd. And then the journey began: launching into Flying, the opening track from the new album, Moon Duo took the audience on a trip they’ll not soon forget.
Using an innovative five-projector setup and see-through screens arranged with a trapezoidal footprint, they added a stunning visual aspect to their performance that gave everyone in the venue a spectacular view. Some of the animation echoed album artwork from Circles and Occult Architecture Vol 1&2 while other scenes were created to visualize individual songs in accordance with their tone. The projector alignment also cast exquisite shadows on the large front screen, offering the whole house a magnified view of musicians at work, particularly John, whose drum kit was slightly turned towards stage left, ensuring that the projector behind him caught his hands and stick work rather than just his silhouette.
Moon Duo’s set largely focused on tunes from Stars Are The Light and Occult Architecture Vol 1 with a couple songs from Circles and Shadow Of The Sun to round it out. While the set followed a predetermined order so as to sync up with the visual presentation, foreknowledge of what was in store added to the anticipation, so that when the first notes of White Rose rang out, a throaty roar of appreciation raised from those in the know.
As purveyors of fine music, echoes of other artists always come to mind during a show and although Moon Duo provides their own distinct sound, it’s always with great joy that comparisons are drawn as one song evokes another. Their set this night fit well with Air’s 10000Hz Legend, particularly White Rose with Don’t Be Light. A later tune evoked The Timelords’ Doctorin’ the Tardis, with other song vocals lending themselves to the driving Moon Duo beat. All too soon this personal mash-up sing-along drew to a close and the band exited their screened-in stage. Of course, they held one final tune up their sleeve for the encore, returning to perform their cover of Alan Vega’s Jukebox Babe before retiring for the evening. With this tour, Moon Duo elevated their stage presence beyond the aural with their visual setup, creating an exciting, engaging show that is not to be missed.
Listen to Moon Duo’s latest album, Stars Are The Light, below:
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PHOTOS BY NARDA CROSSLEY