Review: Moon Duo – ‘Occult Architecture Vol. 1’

Released back in February on Sacred Bones Records, Moon Duo’s Occult Architecture Vol. 1 braids the band’s established motorik routes, fuzz coated guitars, and proclivity for psychedelic jams into an album of nihilistic driving down the I-5.

Occult Architecture Vol. 1 engines dark power with an affinity for sinister themes and action. Opener “The Death Set” is black leather and cigarettes; pure bad boy imagery soundtracked by hypnotic drums and scuzzy guitar riffs. “Creepin” clutches your collar and gaze in a similar way, while “Cross-Town Fade” ripe, shady blues filling, is latticed in a dense crust of Moon Duo’s (Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada) patented psychedelic additives.

As part of a two-volume set with a focus on Yin/Yang and the seasonal shifts, Vol. 1 is certainly aligned with winter’s Yin landscapes. “Cold Fear” has the frigid, clinical feel of a dank hospital corridor with flickering, low-power lights. “Will of the Devil” moves enigmatically with a repeating keyboard melody. The snapping percussion and breathy vocals hint towards darkness or the unknown, while spring’s bloom is proposed by colorful and cheerful instrumental choruses which are vibrantly painted until the digital scattering muddies the canvas and twizzles it to an icy end.

Amid the darkening effects knitted into Vol. 1, Johnson and keyboardist Yamada are still free to explore. The cathartic equipping of space guitars, muffled vocals, and monochromatic drumming on “Cult of Moloch” allows wandering guitar jams to ebb and flow all around. When they drop the weight of the drums and knob the guitars to 11, the vocals emerge with clarity and ignite the remaining bits with dynamics not usually linked to Moon Duo’s crank-it-and-go aesthetic.

Moon Duo end Vol. 1 with “White Rose,” a lengthy opus beginning in a whirling winter wind before a tasty krautrock groove blasts this number across state lines. Echoed vocals lift briefly with a tingy melody of clinked keys, followed by a rusted guitar solo. “White Rose” soars impeccably before the wind returns whisking the wanting few into the faint distance.

Occult Architecture Vol. 1 is a confirming revelation, not a game changer; this is simply Johnson and Yamada flexing their rockstar core. Damn, they make it look easy.

(Occult Architecture Vol. 1 is available for purchase via Moon Duo’s Bandcamp digitally or on vinyl. Read our review of Occult Architecture Vol. 2 here.)