Moon Duo: Occult Architecture, Vol. 1

Moon Duo link kaleidoscopic, magnetic, and driving post-punk inflected psychedelia with hermetic overtones. Their best passages are not cryptic but recursive, often forceful, and occasionally mundane.

Moon Duo

Occult Architecture, Vol. 1

Label: Sacred Bones
US Release Date: 2017-02-03
UK Release Date: 2017-02-03

On Occult Architecture, Vol. 1, Moon Duo link kaleidoscopic, magnetic, and driving post-punk inflected psychedelia with hermetic imagery and overtones. The central instruments are keyboards and guitars, underpinning the songs and providing them with shards and slices of melodic adornment. It is the first of two albums exploring themes associated with darkness and light, and its best passages and melodies are not cryptic but recursive, often forceful, and occasionally mundane.

The first two singles, "Cold Fear" and "Creepin", recall the Sisters of Mercy and Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth, respectively, both fashioning a frigid atmosphere as well as exhibiting the album's most conventional pop hooks. "Cult of Moloch", "Will of the Devil", and "White Rose" are also characterized, to an extent, by an approach drawn from post-punk. This is particularly so in the austere drumming which occasionally sounds simpler than that of even Doktor Avalanche, the name the Sisters of Mercy gave to their drum machine. But with this trio of songs, there is a greater devotion to pulling up a melody, creating a narrow tunnel around it, and setting it off with a sense of motion for a period of contemplation and assimilation. These three songs are highlights, and they appear together in a sequence at the end of the album, combining for nearly 24 minutes.

"White Rose" is the most charismatic expression of the band’s approach to psychedelic musical arrangement, the most uncompromising at ten minutes, with no wasted moments, and it achieves a graceful, somnolent rapture. It opens with the sound of slashing wind and a steady unchanging beat, for a moment conjuring an uncanny resemblance to "L.A. Woman" by the Doors. In no hurry, the band introduces a melodic phrase and just repeats it, as if imparting to the listener a single pattern for consumption and the time to digest it. The song exhibits no multifaceted approach to composition and does not develop themes that foreshadow and allude over the course of its running time. It merely establishes a mood and, if the listener is on-board with Moon Duo, a sustained suspension of outside things.

There are two points mentioned above that invite additional scrutiny. The first point is the matter of simplicity. Whereas the highlights of Occult Architecture, Vol. 1 are artful in their simple arrangements and concepts, stretches of the album could be fairly characterized as too straightforward and simplistic. That is certainly the case for "Cross-Town Fade", an almost eight-minute song with no hook, no allure, and unfortunate in its mid-album sequencing. The second point concerns the listener's willingness follow Moon Duo, and how far to follow them. One with an openness and patience for this type of music, undoubtedly, will be more willing and inclined to perceive their imagery, conceptual curiosities, and principles as opportunities to submit and to drift, rather than -- more prosaically, for others -- as skillful and accomplished psychedelia with occasional lapses into listlessness.

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