Moon Diagrams

Agent: Michael LoJudice
Territory: North America
Label: No Gold / Sonic Cathedral

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Moses Archuleta is searching for room to grow. As a founding member of Deerhunter and the indispensable indie group’s longtime drummer, Archuleta has always thrived in collaborative settings. But with his more electronic-oriented project Moon Diagrams, he’s found a new voice, working to express his own creative vision as an individual: “I feel like I’m learning how to become a self-possessed artist for the first time in my life,” he says. That need for space to stretch out and breathe isn’t just figurative: Cemetery Classics, the latest Moon Diagrams full-length, was largely informed by the isolation and alienation of the pandemic era, striving to capture the distinctly overpowering feeling of vastness that comes with hearing music in a big room.

That title crystallized for Archuleta on a long drive, as he conceptualized a “graveyard jukebox” to soundtrack the passage from one realm to another. Cemetery Classics is reflective of a transitional moment in life that embodies a state of transition in its sound, in between one world and the next. Some tracks hew to a more accessible synthpop structure, while others explore the margins of distorted noise and the shifting textures of dub music, with thick slabs of drums that bring to mind Art of Noise as much as reverb-laden trip-hop. While those heavy beats are omnipresent, Cemetery Classics charts an ever-evolving voyage through a veritable River Styx of musical styles: from funkier up-tempo dance grooves, to crackling ambient tones, to moody gothic ballads.

Over the five years that Cemetery Classics gestated, originating with 2019 sessions in Tokyo after a Japanese tour in Deerhunter, the world and Archuleta’s life were both up-ended, which inevitably transformed his music too. That original orienting focus on death became less about traumatic loss, and more about opening up the space for something new, which informed Archuleta’s process of approaching music as a more personally expressive act than ever before. As opposed to the collective jam of a band like Deerhunter, the Moon Diagrams project approaches individual instruments as building blocks of sound, to be layered and manipulated into an unfolding emotional experience: Archuleta describes the initial recording as “tinkering,” an appropriately mechanical term for a record full of metallic hiss and clang, fusing the inhuman sounds of industrial music with the intimate warmth of bedroom tape experiments and a quiet sense of spirituality. During his time holed up in Tokyo, Archuleta was particularly inspired by the uncanny Bar Nightingale, a hole-in-the-wall known for pairing cold beer with an angular soundtrack of noise music—flipping an often overwhelming and aggressive form into something more welcoming and communal, a spirit that Cemetery Classics summons.

With his latest record, Archuleta steps into more of a directorial role, assembling an ensemble cast to help articulate the desired feeling. The album includes the serene vocals of Anastasia Coope, as well as additional contributions from Gang Gang Dance guitarist Josh Diamond James Ford, regular Deerhunter comrade Pat Flegel / Cindy Lee, and Simian Mobile Disco co-founder and production wizard James Ford — as much as a personal step-forward, it’s also a culmination of the many creative relationships Archuleta has fostered over two decades as a restlessly working musician. Even though Cemetery Classics is still a group effort, there’s something about it that feels so intuitive as if was handmade, from the efforts of a sole creator: more than just a solo project, Moon Diagrams sees Moses Archuleta stretching his wings as a sonic auteur with his own distinct worldview to share.