Here’s one I’ve been listening to on heavy rotation recently, gearing up to see them at midnight this coming Friday at Liverpool Psychedelic Festival 2013, Moon Duo Mazes from 2011. I picked this one up on mail order the day I started this blog in November last year.
Moon Duo are Ripley Johnson, monumentally-bearded psychedelic axe slinger from Wooden Shjips and Sanae Yamada, keyboardist and former teacher, initially formed by Johnson as a slimmed-down way of making music and touring from his main gig. But over the years demand has built and built and Moon Duo get bigger and bigger, as befits an absolutely relentless band.
If you ever read any proper reviews, or indeed any improper ones, of Moon Duo and Mazes in particular, they always, always get compared to Suicide. Now whilst I can be a bit of sucker for New York’s premier punk electronic psycho nut jobs, they always felt a bit underpowered to me – probably just due to technological reasons , Moon Duo don’t, although they do ride that divine ‘Ghost Rider’ strut hard at times. However Johnson’s guitar adds a whole other palette of noise to the mix and I do like the contrast between the organic and the synthetic, played out between the droning guitar and keys/beats.
Take side 2 opener and 1537 favourite, ‘When You Cut’ as an example, the keys kick things off with a jaunty clean-sounding 10 note riff, repeated over and over before the churning distorted guitar riff kicks in over the synthesized beats and later (be still my heart!) hand claps*. Johnson’s light vocals suit the song, with it’s atmosphere of jaunty claustrophobia, perfectly – whereas I think his voice can limit Wooden Shjips sometimes. Then, then, then we get a wonderful sustained guitar solo underneath the beat, his playing really is just incredible, very reminiscent of my other favourite Ben Chasny. Next track, ‘Run Around’ pulls off exactly the same trick, but in this context it doesn’t sound formulaic, just relentless; even when the next track after that, ‘In the Sun’ treads the same path. Look, basically Mazes has a sound and you’ll either like it, or you won’t.
The second best track here is the opener ‘Seer’, a great track with forthright yet fuzzy vocals and a strong keys riff and a guitar fuzz so low it’s a tripping hazard. When the guitar solo comes, it breaks through the murk like a phoenix from the ashes, scattering light into all the darkest corners of the song. There are passing similarities with the drone and fuzz of Jesus & Mary Chain too, particularly in the vocals. Second track, ‘Mazes’, is another nod to Moon Duo’s influences, this time in the shape of the Velvet Underground, more lovely twining guitar and keyboards on this sweet song which wouldn’t have sounded out-of-place on Loaded.
It’s not all brilliant, I wouldn’t give you much for ‘Scars’, I know you’re going to think I’m obsessed but it sounds a bit like the beats have been set to bossa nova and the duo have just laid down the skeleton of a track they’re going to come and flesh out later. It’s insubstantial and not in a good way. But it’s okay, the next track ‘Fallout’ rocks as hard as Moon Duo can and is a distant cousin of the epic ‘Fallin” from Wooden Shjips Dos.
I think this is a very good LP, I like the painted texture of the cover and it comes with a huge fold-out maze inside and I’m really looking forward to see how any bits of it they choose, come over on Friday night.
Liverpool Psychedelic Festival 2013 Update:
On Friday I had a works party, of all things at the same venue as the festival – Camp & Furnace in Liverpool. Clad in all our finery we trooped in through the wing of the building which is a venue, called the Blade Factory, in its’ own right. So in an entirely different context I was able to relive my conversation with Ego Sensation where it happened and then, even more bizarrely we walked up over the stage where I’d seen White Hills play to enter the main part of the building.
In between feeding my face and dancing my ass off to ‘Groove is in the Heart’ and ‘Get Lucky’ later in the night I got a good chance to scope out the venue for this weekend’s festivities. Basically, it’s as cool as fuck, people. C&F is a converted, glass-roofed warehouse with a stage at one end and all the trees, fairy lights, bars and caravans (I think they double as private booths) you could possibly need in one space. Yowza! Oh and it really does have a furnace.
Although this time I go I’ll be wearing my best psychedelic threads – I was thinking of going for an understated robes, fez and cape look, accessorized with mirrorball shades and an ebony swordstick. And so it begins.
*I LOVE hand claps in a song.