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Stars Are the Light, the luminous seventh album by the American psych explorers Moon Duo, marks a progression into significantly new territory. From a preoccupation with the transcendental and occult that informed Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada’s guitar-driven psych rock, and reached its apotheosis in the acclaimed Occult Architecture diptych, Stars Are the Light sees the band synthesize the abstract and metaphysical with the embodied and terrestrial.
Branching out from Occult Architecture Vol. 2, the album has a sonic physicality that is at once propulsive and undulating; it puts dance at the heart of an expansive nexus that connects the body to the stars. These are songs about embodied human experience — love, change, misunderstanding, internal struggle, joy, misery, alienation, discord, harmony, celebration — rendered as a kind of dance of the self, both in relation to other selves and to the eternal dance of the cosmos.
Taking disco as its groove-oriented departure point, Stars Are the Light shimmers with elements of ’70s funk and ’90s rave. Johnson’s signature guitar sound is at its most languid and refined, while Yamada’s synths and oneiric vocals are foregrounded to create a spacious percussiveness that invites the body to move with its mesmeric rhythms. With Sonic Boom (Spacemen 3, Spectrum) at the mixing desk in Portugal’s Serra de Sintra, (known to the Romans as “The Mountains of the Moon”) the area’s lush landscape and powerful lunar energies exerted a strong influence on the vibe and sonic texture of the album.
On embracing disco as an inspiration, Yamada says, “It’s something we hadn’t referenced in our music before, but its core concepts really align with what we were circling around as we made the album. Disco is dance music, first and foremost, and we were digging our way into the idea of this endless dance of bodies in nature. 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; where everyone was welcome, diversity was celebrated, and identity could be fluid; where the life force that animates each of us differently could flower.”
Andy says: Formed in 2009 by Wooden Shjips' main man Ripley Johnson and his wife Sanae Yamada, Moon Duo had been chugging along quite nicely until 2017's two records in a month opus (‘Occult Architecture’ Volumes 1 and 2) signalled a slight detour, but here we are a further two years hence at a veritable fork in the road. Moon Duo now groove! Not rockin' grooves like Hawkwind of old (very cool still, obviously), but proper, disco and funk inspired, pitter-pattering grooves like Peaking Lights. Helped in no small part by Spacemen 3's Sonic Boom, a lot of the sounds here do actually recall the late 90s UK post rave scene in their blissed out, bubbling buoyancy and hippie, repetitive, lose yourself in nature vibes. This record glides! Synths are further to the fore but Ripley's ever evolving infinite ether guitar flickers and dances around them to maximum effect. Apart from one throbbing song which is a throwback to their previous records (“Eye 2 Eye”) this albums glows with a kind of contained euphoria, languid and laid back, looping and luscious. The beats here are never obtrusive, it still sounds exactly like them, but them that's swapped pot for ecstasy, a couch for a field! There has been the sneaking suspicion, of late, that Ripley Johnson was squirelling his better songs away to this, his so-called band on the side, and now, finally, with ‘Stars Are The Light’, the proof is in the pudding; he does! It's a majestic record.
Stars Are The Light
Fall (In Your Love)
The World And The Sun
Eye 2 Eye