The Holydrug Couple began in Santiago, Chile in 2008, a little over a half-decade after Ives and Manu met for the first time. The two young friends hadn’t seen each other in a few years when Manu texted Ives to tell him that he bought a drum kit. They started jamming, and a week later, the band was formed. A flurry of songwriting activity followed, culminating in 2011’s Ancient Land EP and 2013’s Noctuary, both released on Sacred Bones. Moonlust boldly treads territory that those earlier psych-indebted recordings only hinted at, especially the dreamy French movie soundtracks of the ’70s and ’80s and the discography of Serge Gainsbourg.
“I had clear what I wanted to revisit from the last album, as well as what I didn’t want to do again,” Ives said. “I definitely wanted to make a good-sounding record, clear and heavy. I wanted to get away as much as possible from the ‘band’ sound. The last album wasn’t recorded live, but I tried to make it sound as if it had been. This time, I wanted to make an electronic-like album instead.”
The result is an album in Moonlust – self-recorded in Chile and mixed by Ben Greenberg (Hubble, Uniform) at Gary’s Electric in Brooklyn – that falls well outside the boundaries of the prevailing psych-rock idiom. Aside from the French soundtrack and Gainsbourg influences, they also cite inspiration from the soul ballads of Aretha Franklin, ’80s South American synthpop acts like Los Encargados, Virus, and Los Prisioneros, and the contemporary French electro group Air. The songs are streamlined hook delivery machines, without any baroque arrangements or unnecessary flourishes to get in the way of their ultimate goal.
To Ives, the lyrical themes on the record represent “feeling lust, desire, for something that you see when it’s dark but it’s so far away that it’s unreachable. It’s an unrealistic target, like God, maybe, or a dream archetype of a goddess. It’s the feeling of melancholy that you can’t fulfill with anything.”
If that feeling sounds anything like the songs on Moonlust, then here’s hoping that he and Manu keep reaching out into that cosmic void anyway.