Psychedelic Electronics: Moon Duo’s Latest

Moon Duo is no stranger to making electronically thickened psych. Three albums deep into their career, the Portland band shows no sign of stopping their roll as evidence by their latest release, Occult Architecture Vol. 1. Basing their repeat-o-rock on spiritualist structures (think Aleister Crowley’s Dawn Golden), Moon Duo uses looped riffs to create magical atmospheres and subtle tonal shifts.

The opening track begins the album with its spacey onset of tones before Moon Duo’s trademarked low-end guitar surges swell through the mix. “The Death Set” lets its swirling echoes rest in the background, a sort of aural loam for the vocals to diffuse into, for the percussion to burst through. Picking up where “The Death Set” ends, “Cold Fear” all but closes the door on possible aesthetic variations. These two songs set a good preview for the rest of Occult Architecture Vol. 1––the album, it seems will be a droning exploration into the mind’s dark.

And for the most part, Occult Architecture Vol. 1 seems happy to drone along down its loops and riffs. If you’re looking for shimmering tempo shifts and lightning quick time signature changes, you won’t find them in Moon Duo’s latest release. That said, the power this album gets by accretion and sheer riff force is second only to the aural space it can occupy at its wooliest. Occult Architecture Vol. 1 seems to be structured by a lavishness, an indulgence that comes not in a smorgasbord of tones but in one continually repeated drone.

And midway through Occult Architecture Vol. 1 this drone manifests powerfully in “Cult of Moloch.” The track starts fast and gains steam throughout its seven minute unfurling. “Cult of Moloch” is a blistering bass groove limned my screaming synth leads and odd percussion. Far beyond the standard drown-in-the-groove structure of heavy psych records, the song varies slightly its repetitions, lets its leads oscillate in and out of sync to create a patchwork of tones that constantly asks for a closer examination.

While the album does repeat seemingly ad infinitum, Occult Architecture Vol. 1 feels open. The record doesn’t necessarily progression in a traditionally linear sense. It twists and turns in on itself. For this reason, it feels slightly unresolved by its end. This could be partially due to Moon Duo’s aesthetic but it also is in part because it is a two part album (Vol. 2 is still sketchy on its release date).

“White Rose” brings this first volume to a close. The ten minute epic is grimy, grungy and showcases some of the best lower-range vocals on Occult Architecture Vol. 1A heavy leviathon, “White Rose” uncoils its dark brooding with an ear toward minimalism. This isn’t to say the track is minimal, but compared to the album’s onset, “White Rose” pars its parts down to make a slick, streamlined groove, the perfect end to this record.

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