Having started Moon Duo three years ago as a sideline from the 'day job' with Wooden Shjips, Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada have created a monster of their own that's managed to stand on its own two feet without constantly referencing the San Franciscan four-piece. Last year's excellent Mazes long player firmly established them as a force to be reckoned with, and while their live shows may be few and far between, they're mostly memorable affairs all the same.
What that does mean is more of the same rather than any kind of wheel reinvention from Circles. After all, if it isn't broken then why fix it? And to be fair, Moon Duo have mastered their own specific formula to a tee. Indeed from the outset, there is a familiar feel to its hypnotic grooves. Opener and lead single 'Sleepwalker' bears many similarities to Wooden Shjips' 'We Ask You To Ride', its lolloping mantra almost mimicking the latter's same insistent demeanour.
And so it continues throughout Circles nine pieces, each one flowing into the next like a meandering psychedelic jigsaw. "I can see" intones Johnson on one of the record's more decipherable lyrics during the song of the same name while Yamada's swirling drones reverberate in the foreground. 'I Been Gone' too strolls by at a slightly more rapid pace, gathering momentum towards its epic final third as Johnson's vocal becomes a passing sigh.
Elsewhere, a glass or two is raised to the memory of Spacemen 3 ('Circles') and Loop ('Dance Pt 3'), arguably two of Ripley Johnson's biggest influences in both this and his other band. In the case of 'Dance Pt 3', there's a danceable playfulness not often present on the rest of Circles that perhaps indicates one direction Moon Duo should consider investigating further in the future. Meanwhile, 'Sparks' could be The Dandy Warhols had they relocated to the West Coast of America in their younger days.
Closing with the mammoth 'Rolling Out' which breaks the eight minutes barrier and some, Circles revels in its consistency if nothing else, and while the element of surprise is something one is unlikely to be greeted with by a Moon Duo record, they make business as usual seem like an enjoyable pastime rather than a laborious chore.
7Dom Gourlay's Score