Published Sep 25, 2019As a followup to their sonorous Occult Architecture album series, Moon Duo embark into new territory with the celestial, psych-rock and disco blend Stars Are the Light. Although the intention is clear, a similar method of execution makes songs recurrently feel similar and without much depth.
Throughout Stars Are the Light, Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada return to create the otherworldly, transcendental sounds common in their previous compositions. This time around, Johnson's signature guitar is smooth and languid, following the step by step rhythm of disco groove, while Yamada's ethereal synths and trippy, dreamlike vocals follow suit.
The first song, "Flying," sets this funky atmosphere nicely and flows gracefully into the title track, "Stars Are the Light," which may be the best song in the album that uses this characteristic formula. But that very formula could detract from the attention of listeners as the album continues: The following four songs have such sonic and rhythmic similarity that it is easy to mix one up with the next, making none of them stand out.
Moon Duo clearly have the intention of getting right into the rhythm at the startup of each song, but a lack of nuanced drum buildups or harmonic progression does not leave much for anticipation. Maybe Johnson and Yamada meant to do this, as a way of getting listeners stuck in a trance-like state of constant psychedelic disco. Either way, the lack of movement can at times feel unsatisfying. By the time the fuzzed-out guitar and '90s techno drums kick in for the album's penultimate track "Eye 2 Eye," it is hard to discern whether it is the heftier rock influence or the refreshing change in tone and atmosphere that makes the song stand out.
Although ultimately underwhelming, Moon Duo still create an enjoyable easy-listening psychedelic atmosphere in Stars Are the Light. It might not be the kind of album you can become deeply attached to, but would never fail to please as background music. (Sacred Bones)