Personnel: Ripley Johnson (guitar); Sanae Yamada (keyboards); John Jeffrey (drums).
Audio Mixer: Jonas Verwijnen.
Recording information: Type Foundry, Portland, OR.
If Moon Duo's first album of 2017, Occult Architecture, Vol. 1, suffered from not taking enough chances, their second album, Occult Architecture, Vol. 2, may take a few too many, though in the end it turns out to be a more enjoyable listening experience. That first album saw the duo of guitarist/vocalist Ripley Johnson and keyboardist/vocalist Sanae Yamada hewing closely to the sonic template the band had established over the years, with Johnson's psychedelic riffs and wanderings lashed down by Yamada's tightly wound keys, lately fortified by drummer John Jeffrey's pounding drums. Vol. 1 dealt out few surprises, sounding a bit too familiar and a little uninspired. Vol. 2 has a couple songs that stick to the basic Moon Duo sound and do a fine job of it, namely the expansive "Sevens," which holds down the middle of the album like an anchor, and the rambling "New Dawn," which adds some nice vocal harmonies and features some nimble fretboard explorations from Johnson. "Lost in Light" sticks pretty close to the formula, but adds some majestic drum fills, a sweeping chorus, and some big-sounding synths, taking the sound to epic new heights. The remaining two songs take the usual Moon Duo sound and give it a big twist. "Mirror's Edge" is seven-plus minutes of what sounds like the Stone Roses warming up to play "Fool's Gold" while imbibing some serious cold meds. It rides a basic groove and some funky guitar strumming into oblivion, taking the listener's attention right with it. Much, much better is the album-ending "Crystal World," which shuffles along in a stoned glam rock strut for ten minutes while Johnson meanders up and down his guitar's neck, plucking out half-formed ideas and weird combos of notes. It's mind-numbing in a good way, emptying the brain of all rational thought and emotion. Everything becomes the strut and it feels like it will never end. It does, though, leaving behind a really weird album. While there is plenty of good stuff going on, there is a little too much conservative playing and a little too much left-field oddness for the record to truly hold together. Occult Architecture, Vol. 2 is preferable to the first volume, but it pales next to the band's next work. ~ Tim Sendra