Historically, Moon Duo have channeled a form of guitar-driven psych rock. 'Stars Are The Light' shatters the proverbial glass ceiling, embracing disco as its predominant inspiration.
Their musical evolution is obvious from the outset. ‘Flying’ is pulsating with repetitive beats and ethereal vocals. It mimics discovery and, much like the ever emerging tide of a river bed, has an eternal element. ‘Fall (In Your Love)’ shares a similar vision. It is unhurried, dimensional and offers a dynamic listening experience.
‘Stars Are The Light,’ however, is a real turning point for Moon Duo. The title track is immaculate and breeds upon a newfound love of dance. There is an overwhelming groove, far distant from their musical origin. Instead, it is perhaps best suited to the semi-illegal acid raves of British past. It is exceptional and, in truth, the ultimate incongruity to Occult Architecture. Sanae Yamada’s synths and oneiric vocals have well and truly hit the foreground.
Moon Duo was formed by Ripley Johnson and Yamada in San Francisco in 2009. To an outsider-looking in, it’s perhaps easy to categorise them to a sub-genre inspired by the psychedelic giants of the area’s past. From Jefferson Airplane and Alexander Spence to the Grateful Dead and Ken Kesey, the Bay Area was, and arguably still is, the psychedelic capital of the world.
Whilst the regions psych scene may be enjoying a fruitful period, Moon Duo offer something far more dynamic than the conventional norms of traditional psychedelia. Previously, one may have suggested the duo were intent on breaking into outer-space through a series of guitar-reliant intergalactic musings. 'Stars Are The Light' has a more earthy feel. ‘The World and the Sun’ quite literally hints at this. It has a mysterious aura, with guitar and synth interconnecting to mimic the animalistic noises of nature.
Its conception gives reason to this. The album was mixed in Portugal’s Serra de Sintra, known to the Romans as The Mountains of the Moon. There is a re-balance in Moon Duo’s collaboration, bringing Yamada’s synths to the forefront allows for a more textured, cavernous sound. Speaking on the album, Yamada says: “We have changed, the nature of our collaboration has changed, the world has changed, and we wanted the new music to reflect that.”
Psychedelic culture has always been explorative, just look at Ken Kesey. He and his group of day-glow ridden Merry Pranksters took an unconventionally painted school bus on a trip across America in search of the next best acid trip. As they drove they basted sound and voice upon all those they drove past, satirising the veracity of popular culture and the politics of the time.
This may not be a political album, but at times it feels as though Moon Duo are acting similarly. 'Stars Are The Light' is a hit at modern life and its monotonous conventions. At a time when popular culture is so conventional and individuality is so minimal, we need an albums like this. Tracks such as ‘Eye 2 Eye’ and ‘Fever Night’ offer space for alternative thinking and self-expression. The latter’s pulsating sound, deep oscillations and inviting percussiveness acts as a blank canvas in which the listener can project their own vision onto. It becomes a hazy space of freedom and self-expression. Aurally, it asks the listener to connect with nature in order to reacquaint with themselves and express individualism, something needed now more than ever.
'Stars Are The Light' is an aural journey, one which forces the listener to reconnect, or at least reconsider, their relationship with nature. In doing so, it encourages individuality and challenges one to break-up with the conventions of modern life.
Words: Charlie Barnes
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