The aptly named guitarist Ripley Johnson, rips with the San Francisco psych-rock outfit, Wooden Shjips, and he rips with Moon Duo, this outfit consisting solely of Johnson and Sanae Yamada. The main differences between the two being with Wooden Shjips, there’s a much larger outfit steering those motorik-inspired jams, and those jams tend to explore deeper and linger longer. Consequently, with Moon Duo, there seems to be an overt attempt to take all of the repetition, reverb and echo and work within standard pop frameworks. For the most part, Mazes delivers on that promise. “When You Cut,” the title track, “Mazes,” and “Fallout,” all transform the tune in and zone out vibe of Wooden Shjips into songs which require more attentiveness from the listener. The exiting riff on “Fallout,” in particular, is as winding and fierce as anything you’ll hear on a Wooden Shjips LP, and it knows just the right time to cut out. Later, on “Goners,” Johnson lets loose with one of his trademark mad, freak-out extendo-jams. It comes off as neither gratuitous nor burdensome, but within the conciseness of Moon Duo, it provides a link between Wooden Shjips, showing two interpretations on the same theme. Limitations of working with guitar, keys, and limited percussion do surface, however. The thrifty keys and drum machine on “Scars,” (Think your first Casio) sound disconnected to Johnson and prove to be a poor foil to his well-developed guitar tone. Let’s call it a rare misstep for a man, and a band, who otherwise do no wrong when it comes to ripping and riffing through the greats of German kraut-rock and San Francisco psychedelic rock. 8 out of 10 on The Rockometer.
VIDEO: Mon Duo – Mazes