After decamping to Portland with new drummer John Jeffrey and setting up shop in a basement there, Moon Duo set about recording their third album, Shadow of the Sun. Working with a drummer for the first time brings subtle and important changes to Moon Duo's sound, freeing them from the precision of drum machines and opening up their sometimes claustrophobic approach just a little. Of course, Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada are still guided by a love of motorik rhythms and the band Suicide, and Johnson still gets a wonderfully simple and tough sound out of his guitar, but there are more variations on the basic template they've established. They dial the tempo up for the snarling horror punk "Animal," which closes the album with a sharp punch to the gut. They dial it back on the dreamlike "In a Cloud." They throw in a disco beat on the epic-length "Ice," then bury it in guitar noise and organ drone; dig into some swaggering blues-rock on the ominously single-minded "Free the Skull"; and on the super-hooky "Slow Down Low," they tune in to the wonderfully chugging beat that's been a stellar part of rock & roll history, most notably on the Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner." The short story is that they try a bunch of new stuff, it all works, and they don't sacrifice any of the good stuff (cascading guitars, pulsing rhythms, catchy psychedelic pop songs like the almost too bright to look at directly "Wilding," and insistent drones that seem to last forever in a good way) in the process. After an album, 2012's Circles, where it seemed like the duo may have been running short on ideas, adding Jeffrey on drums and shaking up the working arrangements have helped to make Shadow a sterling return to form that gives their best album, 2001's Mazes, a run for its money.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra