Posts Tagged ‘Guruguru Brain’

RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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Kikagaku Moyo

On their latest album for GuruGuru Brain, Kikagaku Moyo have dug deeper into their psychedelic soul than ever before. The album, produced with Portuguese jazz musician Bruno Pernadas, still weaves their appreciation for psych-folk, spiritual ambience, sitar breakdowns and deluges of guitar, but adds a newfound spaciousness and attention to groove that pushes Masana Temples to the top of their catalog. The band’s last album was awash in pastoral hues, and while it often lit the match on psychedelic burdowns, the remainder of the album rooted itself in a crisp coolness. The aptly titled House in the Long Grass evoked the lush countryside and the solace of verdant spaces. While some of that aspect still remains on their proper follow up, there’s an indelible sense of the city and humanity’s hum present in the mix this time.

Perhaps part of this arises from the band members putting space between themselves, thus necessitating entry to the clockwork coercion of city environs. The mournful lilt of “Orange Peel” and the lonesome slink “Nazo Nazo” capture a sense of traveling – echoing loneliness among a hive of constant activity. As the members work their ways back towards one another the modern world inevitably creeps up to try to reclaim them. The band, however, slips through with the steadied pace of cosmic travelers straight out of a Jodorowsky vision. They seem to radiate a utopian bubble of classic ’70s psychedelia that wards off the technological tangle all around us. The record bends creative restlessness into an organic set of songs that breathe with tension, elation, and as usual, ferocious catharsis. When they flick the flint to flame on “Nana” and “Gatherings” its with purpose, burning down the modern marvels to reveal the old temples beneath.

Perndas, it appears, shares their interest in lending immediacy to a recording, with the band working in one or two takes, even if it means the song isn’t note perfect. Not that Kikagaku Moyo are sloppy, but the imperfections lend even more weathering to their vintage air, conjuring up communal psych communities more attuned to the trip than concerned with the token of a pristine recording. Kikagaku Moyo perked many ears with Forest of Lost Children, positioned themselves at the top of Tokyo’s psychedelic circuit with House in the Long Grass and now they cinch their pedigree with Masana Temples. If somehow you’ve missed out on the band up ’til now, this is the perfect moment to come on board.



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Kikagaku Moyo – “Nazo Nazo”

2018 is a banner year for new music, but I’d be hard pressed to say there are many releases that I’m as excited for as the upcoming LP from Kikagaku Moyo. The Tokyo band stunned with 2016’s House In The Tall Grass, and while their EP last year was a nice as tide-over seat filler, its looser experimental nature didn’t sate as a proper follow-up. Masana Temples arrives early next month to sooth fans longing for another long player from these guys, and it delivers absolutely. Let the latest single from the album, and its accompanying surrealist video prove the case.

“Nazo Nazo” hangs in the ether with a lycergic calm. The guitars drop like Mercury from above. They pool in the brain and waft a psychedelic chill down the spine. Its the band at their best and exemplifies the album’s detached cool. If this one isn’t already on your October pickup list, then this should change your mind.



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Sundays & Cybele – “Young Soul”

The last single from Japanese psych unit Sundays & Cybele is barely in the rearview and they’re back with another smoldering cut from their upcoming, On The Grass. Paired with a wandering cityscape visual, the track seeps in languid and loose. The band drops a melted recline of guitar, dewy vocal harmonies and some spacey organ stabs to absorb the listener into their humid psychedelic dreamscape. The cut is a perfect late summer sink into oblivion right up until about the 4:00 mark when they siphon the whole track into a whirlpool of cosmic keys on the outro. I’ve got a feeling this whole album is going to mesh together into a big picture stunner the way the tracks slink in and out of view. With this and the Kikagaku Moyo album on the horizon, GuruGuru Brain is looking to have a stellar year.

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Sundays & Cybele – “Unbalanced”

The good news from GuruGuru Brain continues to rain down in psychedelic sheets. Yesterday flagship band Kikagaku Moyo announced a new LP, but let it not overshadow news that labelmates Sundays & Cybele also have a new album on the way. The band’s fourth record, On The Grass is preceded by the echoplexed burndown of “Unbalanced.” Not to be outmatched by their fellow Japanese psych rumblers the track boasts plenty of guitar shred set to torch the town and walk away in slow motion menace. While the band boasts a heavier reliance on progressive tendencies this time around, “Unbalanced” is pure ‘70s freakout pulling from the ghosts of 13th Floor Elevators and Flower Travellin’ Band.



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Kikagaku Moyo – “Gatherings”

Some days just come blessed, like ones that deliver new material from Japanese psych masers Kikagaku Moyo. Their stop-gap EP from last year was enough to ebb the hunger for new material from this crew, but still fell short of the full album satisfaction they’re able to deliver. The first cut from the upcoming Masana Temples sounds right on track to expand consciousness and lift listeners on the strength of the band’s shimmering vibes and hothouse sweat. The group shacked up with Portuguese jazz musician Bruno Pernadas for production on this album, taking in the veteran’s altered perspective and applying it to their towering yet tender psychedelic tendencies. “Gatherings” runs the radar between glycerin guitars that trickle down in shimmering coils to a heavy prog singe that lays down third degree psychic burns via guitar pyrotechnics. It’s a damn fine introduction to the album that pushes the excitement for a new stunner to full tilt.




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Minami Deutsch

It’s hard not to get sucked in by the tag of ‘Japanese psych pounders obsessed with Krautrock’ as a hook into Minami Deutsch, and the band certainly makes good on the promise, but with their second LP they move beyond that one-note sentiment. While their debut traded in the Krautrock concept wholesale, pushing a motorik and fuzz-crusted take on German Progressive patterns, on their sophomore album for Guruguru Brain the band softens the blunt impact to embrace the fragile beauty in their sound. There’s still a furious storm of rhythm and noise floating as the basis of With Dim Light, but now there’s a whole new appreciation for soft shading and glycerin guitars. The record’s far less of a love letter to Dusselforf, ‘71 than it is a balance between the propulsion of their heroes and the cracked sky shimmer of their contemporaries in present day Japan.

The band is enmeshed with Guruguru Brain’s main hive, having been housemates with banner act Kikagaku Moyo and sharing stages with Sundays & Cybele, and it seems that the subtleties of their pals couldn’t help but rub off on them as they grew their sound. Over the course of six winding songs on the new record, the band works through restrained build, cool-bliss shudders, and caustic fuzz all the while maintaining their dedication to the altar of repetition. This time, though, rather than hit the listener like an electrified brick, the repetition isn’t so upfront. As the throb slides down in the mix it’s allowed to creep up the listener’s spine in the way some of the most accomplished German Progressives practiced their hand at groove.

That groove becomes the heartbeat of the record rather than the impossible to ignore rattle in your face. This time, when explosions of fuzz crop up, as on the highlight “I’ve Seen A U.F.O.,” they tear a hole in the fabric of the album, feeling like a downpour of relief after a humid build up of pressure in the system. Just as often though the band are tamping down the lid and letting a song simmer through as on the cooldown stunner “Bitter Moon.” If they were looking to standout among a stable of great artists at Guruguru then With Dim Light goes a long way to make their case.




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Kikagaku Moyo

It’s hard to suppress a smile with the news Kikagaku Moyo is back for another round on the speakers so soon after their lush masterpiece House In The Tall Grass landed last year. The previous album has hardly left the turntable around here and while the stopgap EP, Stone Garden, is a leap away from the pastoral tranquility that rounded out House, it serves as a call back to their more improvisational beginnings. The EP was carved out of freeform sessions in Prague, finding their way home to refined versions back in Tokyo. The first shot out of the gate rattles the listener out of the comfortable cocoon Kikagaku Moyo left us in. It’s a fuzz riddled stalk through the night with an air of danger dialed in.

Tonally they don’t embrace the menace, though, as they return to buzzing drones and winding sitars by the time the second track “Nobakitani rolls around. Each of the five tracks shows off a side of the band’s psychedelic fortitude – from instrumental fry to languid pools of acoustic shimmer and driving psych buckshot. Naturally, this is not as complete a statement as House In The Tall Grass, but it’s brevity is no discount to the band’s ability to wield tumultuous rhythm and crystalline serenity in equal measure. This isn’t the band’s next great leap, but it’s a pretty nice piece of their overall puzzle.




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Kikagaku Moyo – “In A Coil”

Coming off tremendous acclaim for their pastoral psych masterpiece House In The Tall Grass Kikagaku Moyo don’t rest easy on recreating that album’s languid vibes. Instead they holed up in Prague and went deep into their improvisational side, as embraced on their earlier records. The first offering from the EP anchors their effusive psych cloud to a motorik pulse, hammering home the rhythm as a nice offset to the squelch of guitars and lilting sitar melody. It’s comforting to know that at their heart Kikagaku Moyo are looking to find the nerve of psychedelia, song based or not, and they’re leading you on their trip. They’re not looking for any nods of approval, just getting back to the nuts and bolts of lifting consciousness.




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Dhidalah

Japanese power trio Dhidalah makes use of greater expanses on their new album; each side contains a side-long stare into the mouth of the volcano, and each track in turn burns away the worrisome flesh and then cools the wound with the cosmic rays of the space’s empty void. The band has studied their heavy-psych playbook, found the flay and cut fast and precise for the major arteries in any listener. They’ve spent some time honing up on space rock’s gravitational pull too. Though they understand that the eight ton hammer is effective and blistering riffs are key, they know that running the stew through a strainer of effects and sonic swirl can have a very pleasing effect on the output.

The first side is the seismic crack in the crater, a whallop of Thor’s hammer to the surface and the fallout of destruction that ripples in it’s wake. The title track, on the flip, is where they really begin to find the nuance in those cold, lonely ripples of space. The build in the first few minutes is tranquil, languid, a peaceful respite acting as somewhat of an eye in the hurricane of No Water. Then comes the second wave of destruction, heavier than the first wave, less furious, but with a much more menacing crush. The band covers a lot of ground in just two tracks, but for doom a single monolithic track has always presented an opportunity to stretch out. Dhidalah are proving here that they’re just as much a part of the dark pantheon as Earthless, Sleep or High On Fire.

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