Kikagaku Moyo - Stone Garden

by Jeff Penczak Rating:7 Release Date:2017-04-21

Five is the magic number for Kikagaku Moyo: this is the fifth release from the Japanese 5-piece since forming five years ago, and in that short time they’ve already established themselves alongside Acid Mothers Temple, Mono, and Ghost at the forefront of the Japanese psychedelic scene. That the ’70s improvisational German krautrock movement has had an enormous influence on the band is apparent from their (own) label name, which namechecks both one of genre’s stalwarts (Guru Guru) as well as one of its premiere labels, Brain. Their latest is a half-hour mini-LP / EP, which elaborates on their improvisational skills, one of the trademarks of most krautrock giants (e.g., Can, Ash Ra Temple, Faust, Amon Düül I and II).

As with many releases born of incessant jamming, the results are mixed. The minimalist, highly distorted sound of opener ‘Backlash’ suggests they just started wailing away on their instruments, then started rolling tape to see what they could capture. It’s brainfrying, to be sure, but it’s also rather annoyingly fuzzy and dirty, sounding like someone forgot to clean the tape heads before recording. It reminds me of listening to my old records without bother to clean the dust and grit off the stylus and it distracts from the listener’s enjoyment of such an obviously high-energy session.

Thankfully, ‘Nobakitani’ restores both a modicum of sanity and a stellar, pastoral vibe – a floating acoustic gem that’s perfect for navel gazing or studying the inside of your eyelids. Sadly, the poor recording quality almost ruins the lovely, sitar-driven track. I also liked the hypnotic, motoric groove of ‘In A Coil’, which adds a playful snap to the session with a Soft Machine-ish vibe that lightens the load quite nicely.

Overall, the band’s playing is impeccable, and both ends of their sonic spectrum are explored to great effect. Therefore, whether you prefer the pummeling noise of lightning-fast guitar solos, or the laidback dreamy world of lying in a tall field of grass staring at overhead cloud formations, there’s something here to tickle your fancy. I just wish they put a little more effort into quality control and cleaned up the murky, lo-fi production.

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