Label: Woodsist Records
Though they call it their debut full-length, Moon Duo’s Escape contains only four songs. Multi-instrumentalist Sanae Yamada joins guitarist/singer Erik Johnson, he of San Francisco’s bad-Altamont answer to Austin’s Black Angels, Wooden Shjips, whose fuzzed-out death trip rock isn’t all that different from what Moon Duo do on Escape. Though the Shjips material tends to have more cohesive songs, Moon Duo’s seem to exist as diversionary experiments in rhythm, all the while making excuses for Johnson’s propulsive psych guitar to smolder, wander and gaze agape at the stars.
The title track arrives first, its mechanical tempo and Johnson’s eventual shimmering, heat-mirage guitar soloing recalling Neu! 2. “Escape” doesn’t share the crystal-clear vanishing points of Neu!’s work, though, and the fuzz, echo and busy tambourine suggest “Fur Immer,” as played by the Raveonettes. “In the Trees” lays the fuzz on a little thicker; its seven-plus minutes open with a buzzsaw riff and laconic beat that give way to Johnson’s clean guitar noodles that bubble up to the surface.
“Motorcycle, I Love You” seems to take sleaze rockers Eagles of Death Metals’ “I’m Your Torpedo,” and slows it down ever so slightly, its driving percussion hurtling down the highway while Johnson mumbles quietly, unintelligibly, as he does on most of the record. It’s clear that the man sings with his guitar instead, and the final track, “Stumbling 22nd St” features his most fearsome fuzz yet. This time, it’s the great Nugget “Magic Potion” by the Open Mind that is drawn upon, slowed-down and reverberating off toward the horizon, bejeweled with an eerie, nocturnal organ loop.
You can lose yourself several times over the course of Escape, waking with a jolt with one of those “this song is still playing” moments. It works primarily as mood music; the fact that Johnson’s voice can’t be heard is completely inconsequential. And though the guy must have a great record collection and we share an evident love of fuzz, Motorik and ’60s bad trip-isms, there isn’t much to add. While it’s got the ingredients to be great, the whole of Escape never emerges as greater than the sum of all its elements, elements that no matter their age, are a whole lot more indelible than what Moon Duo are bringing here.