New Blood: Moon Unit

Explosive and hypnotic sounds abound with Glasgow's lunar psych rock trio <b>Moon Unit</b>

Feature by Martin Skivington | 03 Aug 2010
  • Moon Unit

Glaswegian psych rock trio Moon Unit might sound rather alien in a city that is too often characterised as either bobbing around to indie and twee, or craning its neck to 'wonky' electronica, but then Moon Unit would probably sound alien if they were gigging on Neptune – which would be fair enough.  If you can imagine the druidic jams of Pink Floyd circa Live at Pompeii, combined with a grasp of the studio parlance found in 1970s Germany, you’ll still be light years away from suitably describing what they do.

Guitarist Ruaraidh Sanachan also seems at pains when he tries to put a finger on Moon Unit's colossal sound: "I think we've got elements of psychedelic rock, improv, maybe even free jazz,” he offers, “and all sorts of other shit in there."

Moon Unit formed in November 2009, when Sanachan – an established noise artist in his own right, working under the name Nackt Insecten – joined keyboard player Andreas Jönsson and drummer Peter Kelly, who at the time were playing around Glasgow as the psych duo Single Helix. The three had already shared space on several live bills in the city, and Sanachan even released a record by one of Jönsson's other groups, Lanterns, on his DIY label Sick Head Tapes. Sanachan recalls: "They wanted another element in there and I wanted to jam with them as soon as I saw them".

In the short space of time since, Moon Unit have released one EP and an album – Rainbow Obsidian and New Sky Dragon respectively – and performed prolifically around Glasgow, at the likes of Record Store Day at Mono ("it was cool to play in the sunshine surrounded by home baking and dancing children"), as well as at opening slots for Grouper and, more recently, supporting Faust at The Arches.

Speaking of which, what does Sanachan make of comparisons between Moon Unit and the particular epoch in German music Faust represent? "I guess the krautrock era was a time when improvised music and rock and experimental elements and all sorts of other influences were co-existing and those are things we get a kick out of,” he says. “Germany '71 was a jam nexus, much like New Zealand '81 or Japan '89. I'm happy to have those comparisons made, but I wouldn't consider us to be a krautrock band or anything like that."

But for a band who admittedly like to revel in the sounds and studio practices of bygone musical eras, isn't there a danger of becoming too entrenched in rock's glorious past? Sanachan doesn't think so. "I don't think Moon Unit is backward looking. Maybe some elements of nostalgia end up in the mix but if we were treading water or looking backwards I'd find it boring, I think."

Even a cursory listen to the opening track on Rainbow Obsidian will set you straight on their skills; a screeching electric guitar is wielded like an electric sword through air to a tug-of-war backdrop of pummelling drums and dust clouds of ethereal keys. It's metal for Middle Earth.

And for anyone rightly wondering how Moon Unit achieve these wild kicks, the answer turns out to be surprisingly simple: "We just jam and kick off each other. We're lucky that we hit a good dynamic as soon as we started playing together," says Sanachan humbly. "It just comes out naturally. Kinda like sneezing.”

All Moon Unit releases are available via the band's MySpace page