Occult Architecture Vol 2 by Moon Duo

Release date: May 5, 2017
Label: Sacred Bones Records

I reviewed the first volume of this two volume suite by Portland, Oregon’s droning psych artists Moon Duo. Led by guitarist Ripley Johnson and keyboardist Sanae Yamada, the two wrote and record this second volume in their hometown. The music reflects the hidden energies of rain clouds and sunshine and the deep creep of Northwest forests along with their effect on the psyche, inspired by the occult and esoteric literature of Mary Anne Atwood, Aleister Crowley, Colin Wilson, and Manly P. Hall.

This music inspires me on a different level than a literary one. It is visceral and present in a way other psych music isn’t. Certainly “New Dawn” ripples and shimmers like a faraway mirage, but the vocals are front and center, and its creamy drone ensnares the listener. It’s a lovely sonic outing, and a fitting way to open the record. It’s lighter than Volume 1, and deliberately so. As Ripley explains, “The darkness of Vol. 1 gave birth to the light of Vol. 2. We had to have both elements in order to complete the cycle. We’re releasing them separately to allow them their own space, and to ensure clarity of vision. To that end we also mixed Vol. 2 separately, in the height of Portland summer, focusing on its sonic qualities of lightness, air, and sun. Listeners can ultimately use the two volumes individually or together, depending on circumstance or the desired effect.”

‘Mirror’s Edge’ offers a highly melodic mind trip with repetitive passages. It could be trimmed a bit and still work as a standalone piece. ‘Sevens’ is more to the point, and favors droning keyboards overlaid with fuzzed out guitar and lightly applied percussion. It tumbles and sprawls out to nearly seven minutes, but it’s catchy as hell and could be a single! ‘Lost in Light’ is cerebral, sprightly, and resembles the stellar work of Chatham Rise, another of my favorite psych collectives in this musical space. The vocals are hushed and perfectly complement the luminous sheen of this tune. In fact, it is easily my favorite piece on this record. ‘The Crystal World’ is more ominous and tribal with punctuated passages stuttering slightly as it tracks forward past ten minutes. It’s an interesting exercise, but could be cut back and still work well. It closes out the second volume of this talented duo’s work, and it’s one that will challenge and please fans of spacey, droning psychedelia. Worth picking up!

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