As the founder of Wooden Shjips and co-founder of Moon Duo, Ripley Johnson knows a thing or two about space rock.
The guitarist, whose grizzled beard makes him resemble a rejected member of a ZZ Top tribute act, has gone full on spaceman with the latter’s fourth album Occult Architecture Vol. 1, which is inspired by the cycle of the seasons and esoteric writers such as Aleister Crowley.
Yet on the basis of this set, it could be the album that catapults his side-project into a full-time concern. For despite the threat of prog in their occult theme and song titles – which includes ‘Cult Of Moloch’ – the Portland based duo bring an urgency and sinister undercurrent to their garage tinged drones.
This is an impressive feat given that Johnson and keyboardist Sanae Yamada stick to a limited and somewhat predicable sound over the course of their 90-minute set. With only shifts to the heaviness of their overall tone they combine Suicide’s ‘Ghost Rider’ with psychedelic guitar and krautrock rhythms, with John Jeffrey’s motorik playing being so tight it’s necessary to double check that a drum machine isn’t being used.
So distinctive is their sound that they can even deconstruct The Stooges’ by encoring with a version of ‘No Fun’ that strips away the bored aggression and adds a groove-based instrumental passage. It’s nonetheless a reminder that this is very much music inspired by an urban environment and all of its associated unease and industrialism.