Moon Duo, Death Songs and Blesst Chest at Mississippi Studios

Vortex Music Magazine

The San Francisco duo'll become a trio in Portland on March 28 when they play psychedelic songs from a new record that was crafted in our own backyard.

Psychedelic music has a thousand different ways it can be described, but many times those descriptions all live within a realm of what one might call “headiness.” Its ability to take listeners on an untethered journey through the atmospheric depths of their minds via a soundscape of guitars, drums and electronically produced noises makes it more akin to a religious retreat of clarity than anything. Psych rock generally loses its danceability, instead favoring more of a groove or sway to accompany its rhythmic flow and becoming more of a pulse or mantra. One of the finer pairings in the current mantra-rock category is the San Francisco-based band Moon Duo.

Comprised of Wooden Shjips’ guitarist Ripley Johnson, former teacher and keyboardist Sanae Yamada, and recently added drummer John Jeffrey, Moon Duo are currently taking their sonic sound on the road in support of their recently released third album Shadow of the Sun. (Fun fact: Much of the material for Shadow of the Sun was forged right here in Portland!) Much like their previous albums Mazes (2011) and Circles (2012), Johnson and Yamada aim to lead you down their wormhole of grinding riffs, relentless beats, sweet keys, and speckled fuzz. The musical captivation of Moon Duo lies in their ability to keep you grounded deep into each track’s repetitive pulse, and just when you feel you’ve gained traction, Johnson’s guitar sweeps you off your feet and into the abyss. It’s meditation music for the wired, an untethering for the unhinged soul.

With recent psychedelia having a penchant for complexity, it becomes even easier to grasp on to Moon Duo’s striped-down sound. Its headiness is never hidden within theatrical lyrics or under layers and layers of overdubbed instrumentation. Johnson and Yamada find the right blend of both, giving you more than you asked for but never more than you need. To see them live only reinstates these testaments, and Moon Duo’s tour leads them right back to Portland on Saturday, March 28 at Mississippi Studios. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear some of today’s most potent psych rock—beautifully crafted right here in our own backyard.

Portland resident Nicholas Delffs may have built a following with his former band The Shaky Hands, but he’s managed to keep his artistic talents flowing through his latest channel, Death Songs. Taking stylistic influences from Otis Redding, Walt Whitman, Can, Talking Heads and more, Delffs tackles Americana music with heartfelt soul and tempered optimism. His 2013 album Sung Inside A House (listen below) captures life through the eyes of a grounded man staring at the life that’s been set in front of him. His live sets are filled with punchy drums and aching brass that take a firmer grasp on rock and roll than the album originally let on. Get there early to judge for yourself.

And if ‘70s-style prog rock is more of what you need to set your mood for Moon Duo’s unsymphonious onslaught, then definitely check out openers Blesst Chest. They’re heavy and, at times, a bit creepy, but that might be just what you’re looking for.

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