Bright and confident, unafraid to revel in repetitious figures and fuzzy vocals.
James Skinner 2012
“Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.”
The above quotation is taken from an essay written in 1841 entitled ‘Circles’, wherein transcendentalist writer Ralph Waldo Emerson considers the human experience at length, exploring the notion of ‘genius’ and mankind’s constant striving for greater knowledge, depth and understanding. It also serves as the inspiration for Ripley Johnson (Wooden Shjips) and Sanae Yamada’s second full-length as Moon Duo, which more or less picks up where last year’s Mazes left off.
Like that record, Circles sounds bright and confident, unafraid to revel in droning, repetitious figures and fuzzy vocals. These nine compositions grind, churn and propel themselves onward at a relatively unhurried pace, a gleaming pop sensibility revealing itself given time.
This is most evident on its title track, a flurry of garage-rock riffs, descending synth lines and freewheeling guitar solos. “The end is beginning,” sing the duo, not without a certain sense of glee. That all the songs adhere to the same blueprint matters little; Johnson is well versed in full-blooded, ranging psychedelia by means of Wooden Shjips. And while Circles heavily relies on pummelling repetition, he is not averse to opening up Moon Duo’s sound with a brace of splintering turns on the guitar.
It matters little… yet it does matter, a little. Like its predecessor, Circles offers little in the way of dynamics, and works off a very familiar template. Where Mazes’ opening track was entitled Seer, one or the more instantly engaging here is called I Can See. That they are very similar-sounding albums should come as no great surprise; these are the same musicians we are talking about, the same project.
Perhaps glossier and a touch more refined, Circles nevertheless stands up very well on its own terms, and complements its predecessor not in spite, but precisely because of their similarities.