Portland, Oregon's Moon Duo have an ear for the magickal. Inspired by spiritualists like Aleister Crowley and Manly P. Hall, the psychedelic pair split their fourth album in two to capture a gnostic duality. Yet Occult Architecture Vol. 1 feels somewhat staid for a work that draws inspiration from the mystical. Occult doctrine emphasizes change through concerted willpower, so it's odd that the record feels somewhat complacent.
The band's core sound doesn't help this problem. Guitarist Ripley Johnson favours a low, surging tone that often overwhelms the mix. Keyboardist Sanae Yamada mostly uses anaemic beats and piercing synthesizer tones to rise above it, but this robs momentum the from slower songs like "The Death Set" and "Cold Fear."
Fortunately, the album's second half shows off an adventurous side that's more in line with the duo's values, as songs stretch out past the ten-minute mark and ditch conventional structures. The music here usually resembles the cold industrial psychedelia of Chrome, but the pair adopt and shed genre signifiers frequently on the last four tracks. Johnson's extended soloing has a prog feel on "Cult of Moloch," while "Will of the Devil" sports riffs and beats that wouldn't feel out of place on a synth-pop track.
Occult Architecture Vol. 1 isn't as daring as its literary influences would suggest, but it succeeds often, particularly when it varies from its central sounds. Moon Duo should embrace the change on volume two. (Sacred Bones)