By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — While the band started as a side project for Wooden Shjips guitarist Ripley Johnson, Moon Duo has gradually risen to match the popularity of Johnson’s other outfit. First coming to prominence as a member of the droning SF psych quartet that helped foster a local resurgence in mind-expanding sounds during the mid-2000s, Johnson founded Moon Duo with his wife, singer/keyboard player Sanae Yamada, in 2009.
The pair explored a similarly minimalist sound — frequently using just a drum machine for rhythmic support — on it’s early EPs Killing Time and Escape. However, the songs featured a driving beat and fractured pop sensibility that echoed the proto-electronic experiments of Silver Apples and NYC synth punk duo Suicide. Moon Duo has since released a string of acclaimed full-length albums through the Sacred Bones Records imprint that have continued to refine Johnson and Yamada’s unique mix of dreamy atmospheres and propulsive krautrock grooves.
The two musicians long ago decamped from San Francisco (they initially moved to Colorado before finally settling in Portland, Oregon), but have maintained a steady output of tuneful, hypnotic efforts. While their 2015 recording Shadow of the Sun received glowing praise from online outlets like NPR and The Quietus for it’s introduction of an almost industrial grit to their synth-driven sound, two years later the tandem collections Occult Architecture Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 ventured into even darker, more gothic territory.
Moon Duo took a break while Wooden Shjips returned to the scene last year with an new studio album V and the lysergic live document Shijps in the Night that was recorded during a performance at Slim’s in San Francisco, but the group returned this fall with the release of Stars are the Light. Recorded at a studio in Portugal’s Serra de Sintra with Spacemen 3 and Spectrum principal Sonic Boom behind the controls, the new album embraces elements of pulsating disco and ’90s electronic dance music for a brighter, more pop-minded sound. The group comes to the New Parish in Oakland Saturday night to play new music and fan favorites with local singer-songwriter Zachary Blizzard — who issued his latest album on Broken Clove Records earlier this year — opening the show.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 9 p.m. $18-$20