Tag Archives: Moon Duo

Psych-Rockers Wooden Shjips Battle the Apocalypse on “V.”

Wooden Shjips

Photo by Sanae Yamada

“At first it seemed unlikely to even happen,” says Wooden Shjips singer/guitarist Ripley Johnson of the band’s fifth album, V. “I actually wasn’t sure if we were gonna make another record. Half the band is living in San Francisco; we just sort of fell out of touch.” Wooden Shjips hadn’t made an album since 2013’s Back to Land, and the Portland-based Johnson had subsequently kept busy touring and recording with Moon Duo, the side project he’d started with keyboardist Sanae Yamada in 2009.

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Sacred Bones Turns Ten


Sacred bones founder Caleb Braaten, photo by Christian Count.

When Brooklyn-based Caleb Braaten started Sacred Bones in 2007, he did it with modest goals and few expectations. But in the back of his mind, he dreamt of one day working with an artist he had long admired: filmmaker and composer David Lynch. Although initially just an idle daydream, Braaten nevertheless started planning for the possibility.

“I had this idea that I was going to approach him to do something together,” he says. “I set aside a copy of every record that we had put out, every version of every record. I started amassing this box that was in the basement of Academy [Records] that said ‘David Lynch’ on it. And then maybe four years into it, the box was big enough. I was like, ‘All right, I think it’s time.'”

Braaten got as far as tracking down an address—”I was going to write a letter and basically tell him that I’m a fan, and I would like to work together someday,” he says—but happened to mention his scheme to a Los Angeles friend, who had a music attorney acquaintance he thought might be a better route.

That connection turned out to be the right one: Lynch received the box of records, thought it was “interesting,” and the lines of communication were open for Braaten to propose a reissue of the soundtrack to 1977’s Eraserhead. Lynch was on board, and a reissue surfaced in 2012. In subsequent years, Sacred Bones reissued two more experimental Lynch efforts, The Air is On Fire and Polish Night Music.

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Celebrating the 45th Anniversary of Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” with Artists on Bandcamp


Nick Drake was the kind of musician other artists dream of being—and, in some ways, fear becoming. Largely unknown during his 26 years on this planet, Drake’s dark-yet-delicate music returned to public consciousness more than twenty-five years after his 1974 suicide, when the title track of his final record, Pink Moon (1972), was included in a dreamy 2000 Volkswagen commercial hawking the Cabrio convertible. Seventeen years later—and 45 after Pink Moon’s release—a diverse cross-section of musicians are still citing Drake as an influence.

In many ways, though his path was different than both of theirs, Drake was a kindred spirit to artists like Kurt Cobain and Elliott Smith (who also owes quite a bit of his spare, haunting sound to Drake). He was deeply in love with music, hungered for success, but, in many ways, shrank from the trappings of music stardom. As a result, he died “thinking he was a failure,” as his sister Gabrielle said in a 2015 interview with Esquire.

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Album of the Day: Moon Duo, “Occult Architecture Vol. 1”

Moon Duo, the duo of Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada, have preached alternative gospel since their debut LP, Escape, released on Woodsist in 2010. For Occult Architecture Vol. 1, their fourth studio album for Sacred Bones Records, the duo fled the weather-less consistency of Southern California and returned to their hometown of Portland, Oregon to record.

There, Ripley and Yamada found great beauty in the coming and going of the seasonal cycle, and divided Occult Architecture into two parts. The first actively engages with the darkest recesses of winter. Vol. 1 is full of pummeling electro-punk, feisty and edgy yet also containing a certain warmth—like a steaming cup of coffee on a freezing morning—as is the case on album standout “Creepin.” Ripley’s melodies are paramount to Moon Duo’s sound, relying more on aesthetic and melody than lyrical craft.

Simplicity is Moon Duo’s not-so-secret weapon. Their tracks blend the familiar concoction of guitars, a bevy of synthesizers, vocals and drum machines (helmed by touring drummer John Jeffrey). Yet their music never feels stale. Their sound exists beneath layers of haze, each acutely defined as to not overwhelm any particular part. “Will of the Devil” is a spooky midnight jam, with skyward reaching ‘80s synths and a stomping drum pattern that wouldn’t sound out of place at an NBA game. Occult Architecture Vol. 1 is music for cold nights and grey mornings. The band embraces darkness rather than wallowing in it. And if all of this darkness is just too much for you? Well, springtime is right around the corner.

Will Schube