This is the third time I have seen Moon Duo live. The previous two times were under quite different circumstances, but both in their own way were exceptional. I first saw them at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds when Sanae had some really serious technical problems with her keyboards, to the extent that it looked like the gig might have to be cancelled at one point. As it was her and Ripley delivered a great evening despite the obvious ongoing issues on stage.
A few months later I saw the Duo again at last year’s Liverpool PsychFest where they played a very memorable set that was, for me, the high point of the festival. It was clearly the result of Ripley and Sanae thinking and feeling a great deal about the context in which they were playing and they transformed the Furnace with their unique brand hot post industrial soundscapes as they thrashed out a high tempo set, coupled with superb and highly effective visuals which, together, brought to mind the atmosphere of 90s raves. This was psych music with BPM and it totally blew me away.
So it was in this context that I came to tonight’s gig: high expectations of a performance that would at the same time be professional, intelligent and mind boggling. I was interested to see if they could replicate the Liverpool performance on a much smaller stage, and how a smaller gig might sound without the technical issues suffered at the Brudenell.
From the very beginning I was transported though a mixture of the relentless beats and brilliant visuals, which work differently but as well in a smaller venue. Along with the pulsating sound were pulses of light shooting forward like photon torpedoes combining to great effect forming a gestalt experience which took me to the nether realms of my imagination. The band were taking us on a journey, collectively yet separately.
They opened with ‘Sleepwalker’, and also played ‘I’ve Been Gone’ from the excellent Circles album; and ‘Motorcycle, I Love You’ was a brilliant inclusion toward the end. In all these tracks Sanae’s keyboards and the excellent drumming (this was really Moon Trio) really drove the music forward, providing the intensity and inviting the journey, while Ripley’s guitar work took me off on flights of fancy. This belies any notion that the band’s music is simple and repetitive; far from it. This was most evident in what, for me, was the centre piece of the set: ‘Free Action’. This was a fantastic sprawling track, as it is on the latest Live In Ravenna, and of all the numbers they played this took me away the most. As it verged on the edge of chaos I kept finding myself off the beat where there seemed to be all sorts of interesting things going on. It was like the music was gradually melting away leaving me to make my own way through it and, with the stunning visuals, which themselves were far less concrete, you could feel a gradual loosening of the musical noose.
This, then, was not just a gig but a psychedelic experience facilitated by skilled musicians who are operating at a level where they seem to be seeing to take the audience away from the mundane in a way that allows you to take it away with you. The experience is still with me, and I really look forward to the next trip.
You can find more Psych Insights by Simon Delic here.