Moon Duo / Peaking Lights
Ones To Watch - Moon Duo

Exploring further into the outer reaches of our musical society

Moon Duo

Moon Duo exist at an extremity of the Americana spectrum, a primordial soup of krautrock, psychedelia and drone. Their first full-length, ‘Mazes’, is loaded with defiled riffs, reverb-heavy vocals, the vigour of Dead Meadow’s self-titled and the gritty cosmic elements of Spaceman 3.

It doesn’t dance around maypoles or wear robes whilst chanting to pagan gods. It’s not about smelly hair and potato-sack ponchos. It’s ‘hippy’ as in beards, bloodied pupils and Hells Angels’ testosterone. It’s psychodelia, for want of a better portmanteau.

The music is continually on the ascension looking towards higher states and greater truths. It’s spiritual in a cosmic (but not extra-terrestrial) sense: “[The music] was born in San Francisco, which is frankly much more far-out than Roswell,” according to Ripley Johnson, who shares the group with his wife and other Wooden Shjips member Sanae Yamada. “We want to take the listener for a ride.” And that they do.

The basic structure is written before the group build the sound. “We’ve been approaching it more as a sculptural process than a song arrangement,” continues Johnson. “This usually means adding textural or tonal or rhythmic elements to achieve an aesthetic balance.”

The grand illusion of Moon Duo may not be in rendering Area 51 banal or that they live in a cooler leather-clad version of Pat Murphy’s ‘The City, Not Long After’ but that their sound is music at its most seductive, its most hypnotic.

‘Mazes’ by Moon Duo is released April 18th on Souterrain Transmissions.

Peaking Lights

On the other end of the US psych scale are DIY electronics group Peaking Lights. The band, also married, specialise in home-made synthesizers and tape loops constructed out of salvaged consumer electronics such as analogue radios. The music is both pseudo-science and political commentary, a Pataphysics for the bourgeois punk scene (perhaps). It points to the absurdity that what many view as technological detritus others see as a cog in our analogue futures.

Their new record, ‘936’ is cleaner than previous outings. It marks a transition away from the distorted depths that reigned during their earlier recordings. If you imagine that the sound is produced through the endless tweaking of resisters and knackered DIY gear it seems incredible that the group could arrive at such sonic purity. For their songs are a collagist construction of sound created, manipulated, then recorded - it is truly astonishing that the result is anything but a sea of distortion. The new tracks flow with angelic grace, light and uptempo, a clean move away from any hedonistic tendencies they suggested on Imaginary Falcons or their frightening 7” ‘Space Primitive’ released last year.

In Murphy’s post-apocalyptic San Francisco the battle to recreate the dreams of a world halfforgotten are fought with an arsenal of art and magic. Moon Duo and Peaking Lights could be easily placed in this dystopia. That although they both fight to re-imagine lost realities, their modes of attack could not be any more different.

‘936’ by Peaking Lights is available on Not Not Fun.

Words by Samuel Breen


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