Review Summary: Accurate and listenable though Moon Duo's debut album may be, it lacks a killer punch and a human heart.
At just under 30 minutes long, and containing but four tracks, Moon Duo’s first album, Escape has all the right materials to be a spellbinding half an hour, the band recalls all the memorable touchstones of the counter culture since the first Silver Apples album, adding Cluster, Suicide, Kraftwerk and My Bloody Valentine to their impressive roster of influences, all of which they wear extremely thinly on their collective sleeves.
As members of legendary San Francisco band Wooden Shjips, Moon Duo undoubtedly had a lot to live up to, not only in content, but image, with Shjips producing a warped spacey psychedelic sound, the Duo had to produce something as equally experimental, and they do it well.
The album opens on a strong point, with Motorcycle, I Love You pounding the band’s ideology repeatedly until it remains but a shattered, pulped version of itself. The track has undertones of The Jesus & Mary Chain’s legendarily simplistic drumming, axle grinding guitars and mumbled spacey vocals. As with most tracks on the album, it enters quite a steady groove which remains throughout the rest of the album, a beat which rarely drops in speed, and a wall of sound that builds in shattering intensity until the breathtaking eight minutes is over.
Next track, In the Trees is a lot slower, but it immediately slumps into a stoner groove, relaying sound wave after sound wave through both right and left channels, leaving the listener feeling dizzy until the drone vocals come in. Stumbling 22nd and Escape both pass by with the same level of groove, this time with more electronic instruments, showcasing the bands skill as instrumentally gifted musicians.
However, excellently spaced out the album feels throughout, something in the album feels cheapened, it is almost like the Duo are simply music theorists, cold and calculating, reducing shoegaze to a formula, which, depending on your opinions of the genre, may be a good or bad thing. There is no heart on the record, and unlike similar enthusiasts, Brian Jonestown Massacre and Spiritualized, Moon Duo seem as content as possible to bash the drone and the cosmic vibes straight into your cranium until you submit to it, as opposed to letting them waft over and sink in of their own accord.
The music is great, and the atmosphere couldn’t really be better, but there is definitely a factor missing from Escape, a factor which can’t really be placed. The missing aspect seems to be the lack of consciousness at being what it is, and Moon Duo does not achieve this other level of consciousness at all through the album, which makes it a disappointing, pointless and ultimately hollow listen.