Moon Duo - Circles
(Sacred Bones / Souterrain Transmissions)
By: Rob Gannon
If it weren’t for the fact that Circles takes its name from an 1841 essay by transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson it’d have been as well to entitle it Loops. True we’d have then lost the telling allegory of Erik “Ripley” Johnson‘s exercises in repetition being code for organically approved order, but this otherwise open collection doesn’t require such highbrow festooning to appeal when an erstwhile, almost self-mocking strain of frankness has been key to Johnson and his keyboard-wielding cohort Sanae Yamada‘s MO to date. Prior to this release, the Mazes LP predictably encoded a roundabout sense of dark-edged playfulness and before that the pair made their alter-ego Escape, leaving San Franciscan space-rock overlords Wooden Shjips for pastures differently named if not massively distinct.
Perhaps then a little less tunnel-visioned than Wooden Shjips, perhaps a touch more populist with occasional choruses, Moon Duo remains an extension of the pair’s roots rather than a vacation and Circles a continuation of Mazes rather than a deviation. As such, and despite a couple of cuts like, for example, the summery psyche of the title track (which is probably the lightest loop-fest yet credited to the twosome – its spiralling synths and all), Circles is as comfortable an album as one so deeply mired in signature grind and fuzzed-out repeato-drone can be.
The locked-in groove of “Sleepwalker” is particularly ear-catching with a vaguely Eastern line of psyche and Johnson’s stoned whisper bubbling through the bong smoke like a becloaked night-crawler disturbing a descending fog. “I Been Gone” flexes some choice Hendrix-style guitar protestations and “I Can See” lollops up and down the scales, building to a lurching death-trap rollercoaster of blistering space-rock solos that are wisely reprised for “Dance Pt. 3”, which boldly fires them off into uncharted regions of the galaxy, melting some third-eye minds in search of the better parts of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club‘s career.
Even though Circles houses some lesser jams that struggle to be memorable in such company it chooses to close with a stone-cold psyche-rock killer. All slow-motion oppression, “Rolling Out” starts life as a series of meditative rhythms that soothe like the endless chatter of a trundling locomotive before meandering its way via some outrageous guitar-manship to a dumper truck deposit of hypnotic scree. Given Circles‘ nomenclature it’s only apt then that the natural response is but to repeat the cycle: flip, spin, engage ad infinitum.
Advised downloads: “I Can See” and “Rolling Out”.
Circles is out now on Sacred Bones / Souterrain Transmissions.