I have been a big fan of Kikagaku Moyo/幾何学模様 for some time now, they have brought out a series of absolutely stunning albums and are face-meltingly good live… seeing the in Manchester in 2016 ranks as one of my all time top gigs. They are a band who tour tirelessly, and are seemingly always on the road, which might explain why this is their first full-length release for some thirty months. Back then ‘House in the Tall Grass‘ marked a career high for the band as far as I was concerned, and I still reserve special moments to put it on the turntable. With ‘Masana Temples’, however I think that the band may well have once again surpassed themselves.
Clearly it is quite early to make such sweeping statements but as I sit here listening to it for the third time it is giving me such deep soulful feelings that I can only imagine that this is going to be the sort of love affair that will go on for a very long time indeed.
OK then, so let’s get those superlatives sharpened and have a run through this beauty. And that’s what ‘Masana Temples’ is, a thing of beauty from the stunning artwork…
…to the music itself, starting with the appropriately named ‘Entrance’… a sitar piece that acts as an overture to the album… a gateway into this set… a chance to get yourself comfortable and prepare to receive the vibes that will be coming your way. Take your favourite stimulant if you like… I’ve got a big steaming mug of tea!
From there it’s straight into ‘Dripping Sun’, and from the very first thrumming of the bass we’re off on a gloriously melodic journey that is both full of groove and soul… soul in the many ways of meaning. The guitar on this soars like an eagle above the ecstatic rhythms of the rest of the band… then after a couple of minutes the vocal slides in and you find yourself melting into the sofa… achingly beautiful is a much overused phrase in reviews (not by me) but here it is absolutely the case. It also strikes me that this is a sound that is unique to the band with its Japanese and other influences combining to stunning effect. There is also a melancholy to the song… perfect as the last days of summer drift into Autumn. But then just when you think you’ve got a handle on it it breaks out into one unholy psychedelic freak out… stunning, and a massive step forward for the band as far as I’m concerned.
That languid melancholy returns with ‘Nazo Nazo’. There’s a definite jazz element to this but, again, the band are giving it their own particular interpretation in a way that reminded me of the Japanese jazz scene, such as those featured in this excellent recent compilation; the album is produced by Portuguese jazz musician Bruno Pernadas, so that goes some way to explaining where they wanted to go with this release.
After that ‘Fluffy Kosmische’ see the tempo move up a gear. Of all the tracks here this one sounds the most like it could have been on ‘House in the Tall Grass’ as it fairly takes you along on it’s melody before once again heading into the freak-out zone. I just love how the band move from pure melody to absolute lysergic freak out in the space of only a few bars. Marvellous!
This gets segued into ‘Majupose’ which is different again, all the tracks on here have their own distinct feel. Here the beats are more broken up and there is not quite the same easy feeling as elsewhere on the album. This is by no means a negative thing since it gives it a different texture and perhaps a darker tone.
After than ‘Nana’ gets it’s groove on straight away and heads off into some sort of ethereal space within the first few bars. There is such an otherworldly feeling to this track. It is also quite incessant in its beat… a real psychedelic number which gets into your brain and does not let go… sorry I completely got lost in it until the sitar bridge… yeah one of those… its brilliant!
‘Amayadori’ is a very short track that is so delicate and fragile you feel that just listening to it will cause you to break it. The sound of rainfall makes you want to go outside and feel it on your face… such an odd little track that somehow makes you feel glad to be alive… why have I got a tear in my eye?
Oh for fucks sake they were just softening us up for ‘Gatherings’, a track that kicks off with a massive heavy guitar opening before settling down into a lovely plangent rhythm… and then away into some sort of inner space. Sitting here I feel like I’m in a cave which has blossom on the walls, my tea is obviously kicking in now, and as the guitar hammers back in the walls melt away to reveal an altogether more open scene… darkness, a valley the sun just peering up on the horizon. I guess I could listen to this a hundred times and experience it differently. But that’s the point.. this is a track, and an album, to give in to and let it take you where you want to be. And now I’ve just read the press release this makes perfect sense when it says…
Life for a traveling band is a series of constant metamorphoses, with languages, cultures, climates and vibes changing with each new town. The only constant for Kikagaku Moyo throughout their travels were the five band members always together moving through it all, but each of them taking everything in from very different perspectives. Inspecting the harmonies and disparities between these perspectives, the group reflects the emotional impact of their nomadic paths. The music is the product of time spent in motion and all of the bending mindsets that come with it.
…and with that ‘Gatherings’ kicks up another gear, and me with it. I am convinced that this is Kikagaku Moyo’s best work to date… and that is set against an extremely high starting point. All that touring and being together all the time cannot be easy… but if it is the catalyst for this sort of creativity then the band must be doing something right.
After that we need some sort of come down, and ‘Blanket Song’ down just that; an acoustic psychedelic lullaby that takes us back to our starting point… sitting relaxed on the sofa reflecting on the trip that we have just been on and, frankly, wanting to get it started again as soon as possible!
‘Masana Temples’ is released by Guru Guru Brain and is available to order here.
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