What transpires when taking in the Moon Duo live experience is sooooooooo much more than just a gig.
Support act SaD teams Simona Castricum (guitar/programming) up with NO ZU’s Daphne Camf (vocals/synth) and the pair deliver tunes featuring driving beats with tinges of New Order. Camf’s affecting vocals add a layer of humanity to the duo’s robotic, layered instrumentation and we’re ever so pleased SaD are now on our radar.
While taking our seats after intermission, we notice that all of the instruments on stage are enclosed in what appears to be a prism of scrims. A staffer sidesteps along in the gap between the front row and stage, brandishing a sign that reads “No Flash!” for those in the house who are keen to get a l’il snap-happy, but we soon realise that even pro photographers would have a great deal of trouble capturing the Moon Duo live experience.
Birdsong sounds morph into a low drone as Moon Duo – guitarist Ripley Johnson (who also plays with Wooden Shjips) and keyboardist Sanae Yamada plus touring drummer John Jeffrey – take the stage and we’re completely transfixed from the get-go. The trio start off at a relatively gentle pace with the soothing Flying. Moon Duo’s visuals, created by Manchester-based AV artist Emmanuel Biard, are equally as important as an extra band member. The music alone is heyday Doors-level mind-altering, just add psychedelic imagery plus strobes and non-disturbing acid flashbacks are bound to hover just below the surface. Occasional vocals enter the arrangements like chants, adding an element of ritual to proceedings.
The World and the Sun, from Moon Duo’s latest Stars Are the Light set, positively shimmers, building in intensity to the point where we wouldn’t have been at all surprised if a UFO materialised overhead to abduct us all.
At one point we’re reminded of Ed Starink’s The Chase (aka Midnight Express theme) as well as some of Vangelis’s best soundtrack work. Moon Duo’s music pulses like a living organism. As the three musicians’ shadows dance in amongst the psychedelic imagery on the scrims, we feel as if we’re watching a trippy cartoon. After entering a meditative state, random thoughts wander in and out of our brainboxes – some welcome, others not so much – but then we somehow feel at peace with the cosmos by show’s end. Moon Duo’s cover of Suicide’s Jukebox Babe makes us salivate as effervescent keys pop from the song’s insistent-yet-insouciant arrangement.
Have you ever been lucky enough to catch New York’s experimental rockers Battles live? Well Moon Duo will leave you feeling similarly absolved post-show – somewhat like a sound bath for discerning listeners.
Photo credit: Carbie Warbie