San Franciscans Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada have always worn musical influences made up of heavy 60’s vibes, krautrock and the pioneering electronics of Suicide on their sleeves.
As Moon Duo, they share a label with, amongst others, fellow deconstructionists Blanck Mass, schlock-director/composer John Carpenter and electro goth maven Zola Jesus, somehow underlining the point.
Stars Are The Light, however, is a departure from their usual occult-centric and occasionally dank psychedelia, a change in tone apparent from the first note of opener Flying which rolls in with the gentle pulse of a vintage keyboard, a spangly Balearic sounding guitar and a benign pattern framed against Johnson’s gossamer light vocals. Put simply, it’s a brilliant ray of sunshine which announces the first ever Moon Duo record which sounds like it was recorded in flip flops.
This uber-relaxed new approach uses the newly opened doors of perception to make some more than groovy inroads, the loops and hippie jazz frescoes of Eternal Shore a genuinely lush and smile inducing revelation, while on The World And The Sun a shuffling, dub-centric beat loads up full of Island vibes of another kind, staking a claim to be the most overtly outward facing Moon Duo song ever released.
Some of the credit for this series of cosmic adventures is down to having Peter ‘Sonic Boom’ Kember – formerly of 80’s acid rockers Spacemen 3 and more recently a collaborator with Beach House – at the controls, a buddy who understands the twin concepts of layering and carving out beat-less waves that cosset the listener. His influence is at its most obvious on the louche closer Fever Night, the reverb drenched guitars also sounding like a stripped back and chilled version of Johnson’s other band, the more kinetic Wooden Shjips.
The trigger for all this expansiveness sounds….very West Coast, the choice of studio location in Portugal’s Serra de Sintra (known to the Romans as ‘The Mountains of the Moon’) with the area’s ‘lush landscape and powerful lunar energies’ lending the pair some previously hidden wings. Sanae explains this philosophy a little further by drawing out the album’s ley lines to vintage club music : ‘We were also very inspired by the space and community of a disco – a space of free self-expression through dance, fashion, and mode of being.’
Using this flamboyant and carefree palette will clearly raise a few eyebrows amongst long term fans, but Stars Are The Light’s biggest gas is that it taps into this universal language so eloquently when coming from songwriters who’ve left most things typically buried under fuzz. In doing so, the pair have created an album which shares on Lost Heads and Eye 2 Eye a magical timelessness with Air’s seminal Moon Safari, swimming back against a tide of demanding that everything makes sense.
It’s a cool which ensures that whether sitting under the milky way or in thirty-degree heat, everything here remains in a state of blissful perfection.