by Danny Kresnyak
VANCOUVER – Sixteenth-century English dramatist Francis Beaumont wrote, “Only love and the moon can make a dog growl in rhyme.” Now time may have paraphrased the Renaissance playwright’s words, but rest assured the original text was equally romantic.
Beaumont’s words find dawn in the work of two-piece Portland electro-eclipse rockers Moon Duo. The group’s beating heart is a couple — guitarist Ripley Johnson and keyboard player Sanae Yamada — who have crafted a haunting mix of rhythms into a unique minimalist spellbound sound. The pair has just reached outer orbit with their fourth release, Occult Architecture.
“When we started it was just Ripley (Johnson) the guitar player and myself; we wanted to give ourselves the limitation of two people to see what we can do within that framework, see how much noise we can generate,” says Yamada.
The most obvious evolution between Occult Architecture and their previous records is that Moon Duo is now a trio, pulling drummer John Jeffrey into their gravity.
Jeffrey came into the studio and laid his drum tracks onto material the core pair had already composed. According to Yamada, this dynamic encouraged the band to evolve in new directions.
Still, the tides remain the same.
Over three previous albums and extensive tours of North America and Europe, Moon Duo find harmony in their shared passion for celestial bodies, and draw inspiration from the faraway matters of time and space for their minimalist, entrancing tunes.
“It’s this distant thing but it has this influential relationship over the natural forces of the Earth — the tides, gravity,” Yamada says of the moon. In short, it’s got a pull to it. The band’s live show exploits and tricks the senses, combining crafted visuals with the all-encompassing fullness of the dark, filling the room with the absence of light.
While the thematic motif of the band’s lyrics usually draws from the supernatural, political upheaval in the U.S. has helped to shape the tone and the emotion of this most recent, often darker work. “Art is inevitably a social statement. Perhaps the political climate is so extreme and unusual that it’s almost impossible to avoid it filtering into whatever you are doing,” says Yamada. “I’m horrified and, like many other people, I’m still reeling. It may take years before we actually see the fallout and know what we’re trying to say.”
Till then, I guess we’ll have to settle for a howl at the moon.
Moon Duo perform at the Cobalt on March 4Moon Duo, The Cobalt