Portland’s portal into otherworldly realms known as Moon Duo made an unexpected return orbit to Brooklyn’s Rough Trade Records in support of their upcoming album Occult Architecture Vol. 2 due out on May 5, after having just released and toured its predecessor, Occult Architecture Volume 1. This collaboration of the former Wooden Shjips guitar-wizard Ripley Johnson and keyboardist-hypnotist Sanae Yamada are known for bending minds as well as rocking socks off, but this time out was the dawn of a new moon drifting into an abyss. After many nights of sedating souls to mystical slumber with lengthy droning epics straddling the interzone of psych and space rock, this new effort shows a catchier, more hook-driven side to this trippy groove of a band.
Opening the show was an act called Jackie Lynn, which is actually the fictional outlaw country alter-ego of songwriter, and space-truckin’ chameleon Haley Fohr, who had previously been going by the artsy musical moniker of Circuit Des Yeux. Dressed in a big cowboy hat and slinging an acoustic guitar, she and her two flanking musical companions could only be seen in silhouetted shadows, back lit by psychedelic lights and separated from the audience by a huge stretched out white sheet. As strange and disorienting as this gauzy divide was, it made sense for Fohr’s splitting personas to be on bold display of her foreboding lyrics and ingeniously creative stage shows. Yes, there is an elaborate backstory as well, which largely involves drugs, domestic abuse, and a life on the run from the law, but all of that seems to largely act as a backdrop to construct some more intensely personal and heartbreaking tales about. She has always been a penetratingly dark storyteller on her albums, and her performances have always been reflections of the epic sagas of which she wails. The new material has a standing at the crossroads blues and country feel, which ism eclipsed by a far more synthy 80’s feel throughout. It ends up more immediate and defiantly confrontational than her previous personality of Circuit Des Yeux. Her deep and wide harmonies bellowed out from behind her shadow, thundering beyond that thin fabric with such passion it left me wanting to peer deeper inside, and yet, somewhat cautious of not wanted to be a “Rear Window” stalker. It was an interesting contrast to the headliners’ show with their front-lit projections onto a white sheet behind the band, as well as giving me some powerful Pink Floyd The Wall concert flashbacks.
I always felt Moon Duo had a particularly krautrock feel to their stoner jams, with synth than typical psych and more De Stijl-styled angular turns than your usual space-rock. While most psych bands are typically guitar-driven, this lunar trio put more emphasis on Yamada’s droning keyboard and the relentlessly driving rhythms of touring drummer extraordinaire, John Jeffrey. It felt to me like this time around they had more of a flow than before, but perhaps some of that lulling sensation was due to me not being as familiar with as much of the material as I had been seeing them before. However, the songs were both epic in length and expansive in scope, with walls of guitar distortion, wailing synths, and propelling drums, all of which seeped into a haze of tripped out textures. They really only added the feature of a live drummer a couple of tours ago, and I must say, it kind of felt like he stole the show at points. Their light show exemplified their oceans of sound by bathing the stage in monochromatic TV-static patterns at first, and gradually the projections became more colorful with an abstract array of kaleidoscopic designs emerging as their music began to rise to higher orbits. Their set seemed to largely be composed of new material from this two-part rebirth, with the exceptions I recognized of “I Been Gone,” from 2012’s Circles, “Free the Skull” of 2015’s Shadows on the Sun, and, of course, “In the Sun” from my fave 2011 album Mazes, which opened an encore that ended with a brilliantly illuminating cover of The Stooges “No Fun.”
Article: Dean Keim