Posts Tagged ‘Japanese Psych’

Masaki Batoh – “Tower of The Silence”

Though he’s long popped up on contemporaries’ records, and issued a clutch of essentials along with The Silence, Masaki Batoh’s solo records have often leaned into a more experimental approach rather than bring to mind his days in Ghost (the one and only, imo), which, makes his upcoming LP, Nowhere so exciting. The album digs into the same haunted well that wrought so many lonesome, ominous essentials from his former band. “Tower of The Silence” is built on a tangle of fingerpicked guitar that buoys alternating moments of reverential silence and impending doom. Even counting in The Silence’s catalog, its one of the best pieces to emerge from Batoh’s catalog in quite some time, feeling like it must already exist within the harbinger hollows of Ghost’s psychedelic dioramas. If the piece is any inkling as to how the rest of Nowhere will play out, then fans are in for something of an essential. Check out the bone-dry video above and look out for the new album in February.



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DMBQ

For their 13th record, Japan’s heavy hitters, DMBQ have headed back to basics – capturing their own particular maelstrom with an array of vintage equipment and analog aesthetics. They’re harnessing the squall, tapping into the eye of psychedelic fury and heading straight to the heart of creeping dread. The record bursts open with the fire-wielding stomp of “Blue Bird,” a song that belies its natural zen title, instead rumbling across the barren outback on tank treads, guzzling the last gasoline available in a wasteland war zone out of hedonistic spite. As the record wears further on, they don’t overwhelm with a constant barrage of amplifier scorch, though they don’t skimp on it either.

There’s a general burnt apocalypse feel to the Keeenly and as the record unfolds the band evokes more than just the warbringer battlements. They unleash dust storm devastation – torrents of guitar sweeping headlong through the headphones in a disorienting haze. They soak the listener to the bone with monsoon drones, and heat-warped textures. When vocals find their way through the chaos, they scratch at the listener with a wild-eyed fury. DMBQ are well over a decade deep into their career of noise excavation and they show no signs of dulling their edge. Keeenly may not be as frantic as they’ve ever been, but it jackhammers as hard as anything in their catalog.

The band even finds a bit of clarity by the time it collapses to a close. The record builds worlds only to destroy them, but by the time “The Cave and The Light” rises over the horizon, the band is ready to rest. The final track sparkles like the remains of a a great cosmic storm, a fitting peace to end an album of malevolent destruction. A definite hole has been felt with the absence of DMBQ in the last decade, and the band wastes no time reasserting their place back atop the mountain of Japanese psych masters.


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DMBQ – “Blue Bird”

Its been a good clip since DMBQ graced us with their presence around these (or any) parts and their first rumblings sings 2005’s The Essential Sounds From The Far East find the band just as enmeshed in guitar pyrotechnics and acid bath aesthetics as they’ve ever been. One of Japan’s fiercest exports, the trio has been flaying minds since the early nineties and now they find themselves popping up on Ty Segall’s DC imprint God?. Seems like a perfect fit to me, to be honest. “Blue Bird,” the first single from the album, is a low-slung psych freakout, tumbling over a barrage of drums and gnashing its teeth on the psyonic forces of feedback and flesh stripping riffs. The 12-ton drop of the song is a great reminder that breathless release cybcles are all well and good, but sometimes the best things are worth the wait – even if you dindn’t know you’ve been waiting for it. I’d never have expected a DMBQ album this year, but it ranks high on the list of great surprises for 2018.



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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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Cosmic Invention – Help Your Satori Mind

There are long simmering reissues that have been achingly in need of a new day, obvious and picked over – the kind that require a contract negotiation to will into existence. Then, there are those that were just bubbling below the surface, ones which should have been obvious, but for some reason or another eluded the mind. The news that Cosmic Invention’s sole album was getting the vinyl treatment fell squarely in this second camp. While Ghost’s early catalog still remains elusively and tantalizingly out of print, this Masaki Batoh side project is given a well-deserved second life through Drag City. The band featured a stunning lineup of musicians, one which would be enviable in any Japanese Psych band before or after. The ranks included Michio Kurihara (White Heaven, The Stars), Chiyo Kamekawa (Fushitsusha, Yura Yura Teikoku), and Okano Futoshi (Acid Mothers Temple, The Silence) among others who have orbited Batoh’s works since.

Landing just a year after Ghost’s haunting psych-folk opus Lama Rabi Rabi, the record stands in stark contrast to that album’s dark restraint. It’s the beginning of a heavier sound for Ghost, played out as a standalone record hinged on molten solos and spectral noise. The band moves from AMT-styled barn burners to electric Miles freeforms with ease, proving that the assembled players were all hitting a seasoned prime during their time in Cosmic Invention. The record found its way out on the experimental label The Now Sound which issued previous records from Batoh and White Heaven along with the similarly Batoh affiliated Sweet & Honey.

While all the members here add to the psychedelic fortitude of the album, the record is really the outcome of opposing forces in Bathoh and Kurihara’s style. Batoh brings his well of haunted tenderness and Kurihara sets it all on fire with a heavy hand on the strings. What springs between those poles, however, is an album of darkness and light that’s rarely been matched. For fans of ‘90s Japanese Psych, this is a pickup on par with anything from the PSF archives and Drag City has done a nice job of it, even adding in a bonus cut. Though, for the life of me I can’t imagine why they redesigned the cover to look like a live bootleg but let’s not pick at small details. It’s a completely essential and utterly devastating record and it should find a place on your shelf as soon as possible.



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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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Taj Mahal Travellers – August 1974

It’s been a hell of year for out of print Japanese psych classics. With Black Editions firing on all cylinders there’s plenty to love from the depths of the PSF empire but Aguirre’s creeping in with a classic of their own. The Belgian imprint has rounded up the cosmic float of Taj Mahal Travellers’ definitive album, August 1974, in all its double-wide glory. The band, known for their eclectic live performances and outdoor improvisations, took to the studios at Columbia Japan for four pieces stretched over four sides, each a deeper dive into electronic quaver, echoplexed violin, growled drones, and charring feedback. The record stands at the apex of Japanese improv and its tendrils wrap deep into the following decades’ younger players as one of the main influences of the new psychedelic front. Though it’s clear that the band had a heavy link to their German Progressive counterparts around the same time, effectively taking up the far east version of Kosmiche on this record, they give the proceedings a distinctly Japanese bent, taking what they’d acquired from a few EU tours and bending it to their will in the studio setting.

Aside from this record the only other official document from the band while active was July 15, 1972 a live recording from Sohgetsu Hall in Tokyo that got the official treatment as their debut. Following August 1974 the band would break ties, with most of the younger members dropping away from the scene and violinist Takehisa Kosugi continuing his journeys through experimental circles, even winding up with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company as musical director for a while. The spectral howl of the band’s heavy hitter rears its head as an influence in psychedelic circles to this day, so its great to have this back in an official capacity on the table. Highly recommended for fans from Ash Ra to Acid Mother’s and everything in between.




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