Moon Duo Casts 'Shadow' At Empty Bottle Tomorrow

By Casey Moffitt in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 2, 2015 7:15PM

2015.03.02.moonduo.jpeg
photo credit: Antonio Curcetti

The latest studio effort from San Francisco's Moon Duo, Shadow of the Sun, hits physical and online shelves tomorrow and the band will be celebrating the release with a show at Empty Bottle that night.

Shadow of the Sun doesn't stray too far from the psychedelic offerings we've heard from the band in the past. This time guitarist/vocalist Ripley Johnson and keyboardist/vocalist Sanae Yamada have recruited John Jeffery to add some human drumming to the electronic drum machines.

Jeffery doesn't add too much to the mechanical beats. Like a steam engine, he keeps chugging away with a simple rhythm, an almost monotonous beat which complements repetitive guitar riffs. Rather, Jeffery's drumming offers new tones to add to the mix.

Moon Duo will drive a riff and accompanying beat into the ground—it's the hallmark of their psychedelic sound. Psychedelic bands have been saturating the underground rock scene lately, but too often we hear them drone away on fuzzy guitars and rely on tired tricks like overused delay, wah-wah pedals and reverb. Moon Duo takes a more traditional route of creating a truly hypnotic effect through relentless drum beats and guitar riffs.

This rhythm grounds the listener. It's automatic, which allows the ears to wander with the swirling keyboards, cool guitar leads and hushed vocals. Where did that guitar solo? How many synthesizer tones are there here? You really can get lost into all the tones and effects because that driving rhythm gives gravity to the whole experience.

2015.03.02.moonduocvr.jpg And Moon Duo isn't afraid to stretch the boundaries of this repetition, at times driving the riffs and rhythms for a good five, six or seven minutes.

Musically, the electronic elements are peppered with new wave, punk and a some krautrock. There are also some familiar classic rock influences as both Johnson and Yamagada do pretty good Lou Reed impressions, vocally.

We're also wondering how at no point as the band developed, wrote, recorded, mixed, mastered and released "Free The Skull" did anyone mention that whole songs revolves around the riff to Foghat's "Slow Ride." It happens, on occasion, when a band inadvertently borrows a riff or a lick. It even happened to George Harrison. But we're talking about lifting "Slow Ride," one of the more recognizable riffs in rock history.

That's not to say "Free the Skull" is a bad song. One issue with "Slow Ride" is that it's not a very slow song, although the title would suggest otherwise. Moon Duo drops the tempo nicely and doesn't muck the song up with a herky-jerky verse or goofy bass breakdown. In a sense Moon Duo has given us a better version of "Slow Ride" than the actual "Slow Ride." Maybe they could have called it "Slow Ride," a re-imagined version of the song. It would have been perfect. It's an opportunity missed.

Moon Duo has released a video for another album track, "Animal," featuring professional skateboarder Richie Jackson doing some cool make-your-own skateboard tricks. "Animal" is a neat song, but doesn't do a very good job representing the album. The tones and overall sounds of the song give you a good idea as to what you're in for, but it is a tightly written song that doesn't really explore the limits of their ability to maintain an elongated jam.

Overall, Moon Duo's old-school approach to psychedelic music is well matched with some new-school instrumentation and technology, making Shadow of the Sun a pretty wild ride and a groovy trip.

Moon Duo performs tomorrow, March 3, at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., 9 p.m., $10, 21+