Moon Duo do everything but stumble. Less spin off and more sequel to Wooden Shjips, the duo of guitarist Erik Johnson and keyboardist Sanae Yamada burn gasoline with the same motorik groove as their obvious Krautrock forebears. But if the original open-road exhaust of Neu and Cluster was meant to mushroom above the obsidian Autobahn, Moon Duo offer a starker vision, thundering with a built-in tension that betrays their impulse to create space within a dense terrain. It’s music for the freeways of metropolitan cities, accessible only at odd hours, when the traffic is thin and the collision of lights, velocity, and concrete creates a wobbling infinity.
The press kit cites John Coltrane and Rashied Ali as dominant influences, but despite the bid for drugged-out transcendence, Moon Duo are more high than interstellar, more coiled and close to the ground than the group name would suggest. Psychedelic drone is the probably the most applicable label, but that doesn’t sound like much fun. Maybe fun isn’t the right word to describe this. There’s release but no catharsis. Soul but little joy. On the keyboards, Yamada channels equal parts Alan Vega and Ray Manzarek, keeping the atmosphere tense, fuzzy and imprecise, always weaving an arabesque groove. Guitar riffs rent like frayed copper wires. Atavistic drum beats. Johnson, tungsten eyes, Freeway beard, mumbles muffles unintelligible incantations, trance music for people who hate trance, sorcery for atheists. Moon Duo make music to retreat into the rat-trap of your own mind. The album is called Escape, after all.