Meltdown Festival: Moon Duo at the Purcell Room
The ultra-modern settings of the Purcell Room at the Southbank Centre played host to a night of suitably space-age, synth-heavy psychedelic rock, courtesy of Ripley Johnson (possibly more commonly recognised as the guitarist of San Francisco-based Wooden Shjips) and Sanae Yamada’s Moon Duo outfit.
It should have been ideal, the dreamlike soundscape providing an ambience befitting stylish surroundings, only it wasn’t. Booked by curator Robert Smith (of The Cure fame) as part of this year’s Meltdown Festival, Moon Duo produced a mechanical performance sorely lacking the personality and vigour to rival the theme of some of their more industrial tunes.
On the face of things, the venue appeared a natural fit for a band with a niche appeal, but the auditorium feel to the room meant that the show quickly resembled a lecture on their music – and the group wasn’t too concerned whether you enjoyed the lesson or not. The sci-fi jam session was performed with barely any recognition of an audience, which made for a slick, streamlined set that had little heart. The limitations of the sound system also did a disservice to the delicate intonations of Johnson’s voice, almost managing to render it an intelligible muffle amid the melange of guitar, drums and keyboard present in every song.
The crowd dutifully listened in on the musical lecture, warm applause and pockets of cheers greeting the finale of each number, with a sole figure deciding to scream her appreciation from around the halfway point onwards. No acknowledgement of the fans’ adoration was forthcoming, however, with the ensemble instead presenting themselves as an odd, somewhat uncomfortable stage presence. Johnson and Yamada were eerily static save for the latter’s arrhythmic head shaking.
Last year saw the release of a couple of albums, namely Occult Architecture volumes one and two, from which plenty of tracks were played at this show. There was also room for the highly popular Sleepwalker, but the focus of the gig appeared to be the seamless transition each song could achieve into the next that, while impressive as an electronic-rock raga, got rather tedious as a live show.
Photos: Erol Birsen
For further information and future events visit Meltdown Festival: Moon Duo’s website here.
Watch the video for Sleepwalker here: