Moon Duo didn’t have to make a Halloween EP for them to sound like Halloween. Formed in San Francisco in 2008 by Wooden Shjips guitarist Ripley Johnson and keyboardist Sanae Yamada, Moon Duo has consistently created catchy keyboard patterns, drum beats and fuzzy guitar riffs that drag listeners through their gritty, grooving songs. Their latest EP, Horror Tour, takes their already dark tunes and turns them utterly macabre.
The band can be characterized as essentially a more psychedelic version of electronic punk duo Suicide, with Johnson’s whispered vocals echoing the quavering, repetitive voice of Alan Vega. And if there’s one thing that has characterized Moon Duo’s sonic structures thus far, it’s repetition. But while piercing beats layered by hazy guitars marked their first full-length release, Mazes, which came out in March, Horror Touronly partially continues with this tradition, instead venturing out into more experimental landscapes.
The title track starts with footsteps and a creaking door, flowing immediately into a steady drum beat followed by a chilling organ. Johnson’s vocals are hushed, never overpowering the otherworldly atmosphere of the song. And the vocals stop there — the rest if the album is fully instrumental. The second tune, an almost cheerily jaunty song called “Causing A Rainbow,” uses sparse electronic sounds and follows the more upbeat tradition of their earlier work. The EP then breaks away from their earlier grinding progressions, turning more experimental and meandering. At some points, Moon Duo are just plain strange (part of “Circle of Evocation Pt. 2” sounds like pouring water clouded by faint airplane jets). But they signify a shaping and expanding of the band, which can only be indicative of a positive future.
Horror Tour is not Moon Duo’s most fully-realized effort, but it’s also not their most serious recording. It’s supposed to be somewhat playful, spontaneous and explorative — essentially, Halloween sonically defined. After all, sometimes it’s fun to put on a costume and try something new.