The Haunt, Brighton, April 6

WHEN Sanae Yamada moved to Portland, Oregon, from San Francisco with her husband Ripley Johnson, she realised she had been living in a “sort of dream-like, outside-of-time atmosphere” for the past few years.

The “seasonless” climate of California brought on this disorientating state. The north-west of America, however, typically experiences “very bare and dark” winters. It is difficult to decide whether no seasons or extreme seasons is more oppressive.

There was some good that came out of the move and the contrasting climates though. Occult Architecture, the two-part album recently released by Johnson and Yamada’s band Moon Duo, is inspired by the changing elements of Portland, from the bleakness into the light. The shift is symbolised thematically on the records by the Chinese philosophy of Ying and Yang.

“There is a wholeness that comes from the two contrasting forces,” says Yamada. “The dark and the light; the inward looking and the outward reaching; they’re all different ways of talking about the same idea. My memory was really affected in California. I had a lot of trouble placing events in time because they weren’t underpinned by seasons.”

This idea of a mental haze is, in a sense, fairly fitting to Moon Duo’s music, which is based around repetitive guitar riffs (from Johnson) and keyboard lines (Yamada). The effect is entrancing. The songs often sprawl over the seven minute mark, not seeking to go anywhere in particular, content to merely keep on keeping on. As such, Moon Duo, like Johnson’s other band Wooden Shjips, are a perfect travelling companion – the music unfolds as a visual equivalent to the passing landscape. Having been on the road in Europe for some weeks, Yamada agrees with this verdict.

The archetypal band for this kind of repetition are Kraftwerk, the German electronic pioneers, who wrote songs about motorways and train travel. Yet Yamada says her influence is more rooted in rock heritage. “Our music recalls the kind that my mum used to play – early rock and roll dance music. She used to play Bo Diddley as we danced around the kitchen. That music is actually quite repetitive and there’s a clear groove; it doesn’t change or wander off. It speaks to the body – it’s a physical thing.”

It’s tempting to wonder why such music doesn’t get boring (well, it probably does to some people). What prevents repetition from becoming tiresome or stale? “I don’t know – I think it’s a primal thing,” replies Yamada. “Some music is very intellectual in its expression and I have a lot of appreciation for that, too. But the repetition speaks to your animal mind; it’s something innate in my make-up.”

Moon Duo seem to be in pursuit of the indescribable; the name of their album reveals a preoccupation with the concept of the “occult”, defined by Yamada as “a matter of hidden knowledge; the nature of reality beyond the visible world”. Understandably, though, she is at a loss to explain how one would actually go about contacting or locating the occult. “That’s a good question. I’m not sure. I think that’s why the idea of the occult in arts is so intriguing.

“It’s an attempt on behalf of humans to understand the patterns and cycles of life and the overall connectedness of things.” Connectedness doesn’t seem to be a problem between husband and wife through the stresses and strains of a long tour. Yamada says she and Johnson are “considerate enough to give the other person time and space”.

“Each person needs to stay sane and happy, but that’s nothing different from a normal relationship. It works great for us – I guess that’s why we’re still doing it.”