Review: Moon Duo – ‘Occult Architecture Vol. 2’

Off the heels of February’s shadowy Occult Architecture Vol. 1, Moon Duo’s Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada present the brighter Occult Architecture Vol. 2 (out now on Sacred Bones Records) to complete their envisioned cycle.

Not a dramatic departure in overall Moon Duo ethos, Vol. 2 does sweeten their sound and mood. Intended to uncover the Chinese theory of Yang and its role on life, Johnson and Yamada celebrate this balancing presence with ease. “New Dawn” trips on a disconnected smattering of keys and flowers into a bold, warm meditative guitar-fuzzed pop song. “Mirror’s Edge,” easily the catchiest of all the songs on both volumes, is selling a slightly different narrative. Instead of minimal bends and curves, Johnson and Yamada establish a deep grooving drum pattern, nimble scratching cymbal work, and incredibly patient guitar and bouncy bass lines to clap along with. This isn’t a straight ahead rocking anthem; it’s a river meandering.

The aptly-titled “Lost in Light” is fleshed to have the makings of a transcendental pilgrimage rock song. It guides in the gentle ways, never pushing or forcing. The vocals are as uplifting as anything Moon Duo has previously recorded. In a similar manner, “The Crystal World” is an exploration in a myriad of systems and spiritual nuance. The instrumental focus reveals a glimpse at the hidden possibilities surrounding us.

While Vol. 2 showcases Moon Duo easily flagging down the brighter side of hill, their defined sound and knack for inhabiting rock and roll’s dangerous-sounding DNA has not waned, simply shifted. Vol. 2 exposes cleaner guitar solos and softer channeled energy. It tips towards light, not dark vibes. This is not a soundtrack fit for the seedy cities and suspicious corners in which Vol. 1 could slip. Occult Architecture Vol. 2 tones back the perceived aggression and grit for a calmer, sweeter sundrenched experience. On Occult Architecture Vol. 1 and 2, Moon Duo delivers a unifying collection of songs. Paired together, Occult Architecture is a testament to our journeys where everything belongs.

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