REVISIO: Kikagaku Moyo / Masana Temples

Broadly speaking, rock music straddles a form of forward dynamics and propulsion. It is designed to exhilarate and be excessive. It harnesses a wild spiky excitement.  Characteristics like high volume, feedback and lo-fi flourishes give a sense of the performances swamping all technical parameters. As a genuine phenomenon, the in-the-moment excitement should tear the roof off.

Tokyo’s Kikaguku Moyo have over the course of their many albums and eps, explored the varying surface textures of rock music, everything from the understated Fairport Convention infused stomp of Kodama (from the 2014 LP Forest of Lost Children) to the fizzing in-the-red acid of Backlash (from the 2017 EP Stone Garden). The long form prog shapes of their extended loud / quiet dynamic are refreshingly distant from many of their more formulaic contemporaries. Their chosen name translates as “geometric patterns” and this release maps out a Japanese world within which my western ears are very comfortably floating…

There is however, another tool that’s laced throughout Masana Temples – the far harder to control power of softest and subtlety. Perhaps a big contradiction in music falling under the “psychedelic rock” banner is the battle between rocks snarl and the somehow excepted mellowness. This album grows out that very fault line.

 

Entrance, is like the title suggests is a bare footed wander through a meadow of sun kissed sitars. As another subtle touch, one of the few spots in the entire album of ‘pure rock’ is in the final section of the second track – the 8-minute Dripping Sun. However, the track first grows out of sensitively interlocking guitars, morphing into a brain tickling organ groove that floats tantalisingly briefly before dissolving into an airy, almost whispered passage. And all within in the first 2 minutes. The track then builds and dissolves over and over before peaking in a folky, lilting axe-surge, only to again reveal yet more whispers. These sections all knit well with each other. The skill here is in the way they transition unexpectedly from one to the next.

Of course, listening to a Japanese band, singing in Japanese tricks my non-Japanese speaking brain. I have no frame of reference beyond the mainly English titles which reduces the vocals to no more than another instrumental thread running through the music. Again, this only further highlights the gently transportive and flowing nature of the entire disc.

Fluffy Kosmisch sits in a framework of Harmonia flavoured guitar with a pillow of backing vocals so soft they appear like slithers of escaping air. The padded organ gives the idea of a weirdly compressed bouncing other world.  It’s not until the very end section when any form of attack is offered – and the production smothers the sharp edges with copious padding.

As the album pans out, the considerable shadow of Stereolab looms large. A massive Venn diagram of textures, rhythm and that blend of krauty motorik, jazzy samba and control.  To my ears, perhaps only once in the entire album, does the album stray too far into a groop exercise with Nana.

Things are spectacularly redressed however with Orange Peel with its uniquely woozy wobbling vibe that has a wonderful displacing quality. A mixture of dragging tape and tinkling keys acts like fog on the brain – NOT a track to listen to while driving or operating heavy machinery…

 

The dreamy rainy ambience and strings of Amayadori float by like a thoughtful pause before the widescreen of Gathering crashes into view. The music creates a huge set of psychedelic brackets encasing the gently flanged vocals wrapped inside. The track slowly chips away at itself, before settling into a groove that surely lasts a further 20 minutes when they perform live…

And if that wasn’t enough, the whole album rounds off with quite possibly the most beautiful passage of music they’ve ever made. The gorgeous strummed, harmonised campfire hymn of Blanket Song. The contrast with what came previously is remarkable; the change marked, and the result is all the more beautiful.

Masana Temples is another delicious instalment from Kikaguku Moyo. The band are fearless, ever embracing of new challenges and creative structures. They are well named. They are indeed masters of geometric patterns, this time round, delivered with pleasingly soft fluffy edges…


Masana Temples is out on the 5th October on Guruguru Brain, preoder it here

 

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