Photos by Chris Symes, Shotweiler Photography
The 10th March marked Japanese psychedelic rock band Kikagaku Moyo’s final concert in Australia, at the Amplifier Bar in Perth. Kikagaku prides itself on rejecting convention and ‘searching for meaning’ through weaving melodies and restless rhythms, employing elements of Indian, Krautrock, folk and 70s rock music to create a dreamscape of mesmeric sounds and phrases. If you’re confused, then don’t worry—I was too, and had to have a long think before I committed anything about the concert to paper. There were things I really liked, and things I didn’t, and that always makes for the most noteworthy experience. It’s all too easy to say something is ‘totally brilliant!’ and then forget about it a few days later, but Kikagaku’s performance stuck with me for a range of reasons.
Kikagaku Moyo are: Tomo Katsurada (Vocal/Guitar), Daoud Popal (Guitar), Ryu Kurosawa (Sitar/Organ), Kotsuguy (Bass), and Go Kurosawa (Drums/Vocal).
“It was amazing to see that PROG ROCK drew such a healthy crowd, they were so pssionate about what was happening in front of them that they were crowd surfing!! Tomo Katsurada, Daoud Popal, Ryu Kurosawa, Kotsuguy, and Go Kurosawa were so nice and welcoming – they mingled with audience members after leaving the stage and happily signed merchandise.”
– Chris Symes, Shotweiler Photography
The performance began with a sizeable supporting act from The Erasers, which are a duo that present as post-punkelectronica, and they reminded me of Kraftwerk (the German quartet that created cult songs like Autobahn and Man-Machine) thanks to their minimalist notation, repetitive and long-sounding chords, synthetic style and quiet stage presence.
Their melodies also gave off mildly Celtic vibes with their choice of modes and tribal percussion (from a drum machine, of course), and if you can imagine a reflective Celt staring at a lake and despairing the rise of modern-day social issues, with the addition of low-octave keyboard chords, then you’ll know exactly what you’re getting into. I actually quite enjoyed it, though at times I did wonder if this genre of music is better suited to exist in earphones while you go about your daily business, or relax in a room full of band posters, rather than standing in a bar and staring at a static stage.
It’s the sort of music that makes you want to close your eyes and think about heavy issues in a hypnotic trance, especially considering some of the pieces lasted over five minutes each with little marked variance. And since closing your eyes in a bar crowded with strangers is not the wisest of actions, I did feel I missed out a little on the experience. Still, you can always check out their Bandcamp page here and kick back on your bed while you ponder the impending doom of the world .
Kikagaku Moyo started in the summer of 2012 busking on the streets of Tokyo.
Though the band started as a free music collective, it quickly evolved into a tight group of multi-instrumentalists. Kikagaku Moyo call their sound psychedelic because it encompasses a broad spectrum of influence. Their music incorporates elements of classical Indian music, Krautrock, Traditional Folk, and 70s Rock.
Most importantly their music is about freedom of the mind and body and building a bridge between the supernatural and the present. Improvisation is a key element to their sound.
In retrospect, The Erasers were a rather complementary act to preface Kikagaku Moyo, since both featured hypnotic soundscapes and were intriguingly unconventional. I do have the duty to admit I’d never actually indulged in the niche world of psychedelic rock before this nor even been to a night club to listen to it, so this was an entirely fresh experience for my concert-hall ears. And it certainly was an experience, because for those unaware of the intricacies of Kikagaku’s music I’ll boil it down to three main points: exotic instrumentation complimenting the drums/keyboard/guitars, ranging from a sitar to a swanee whistle (and also the only instance I’ve heard of it the latter being played sincerely); they unashamedly turn their nose up at conventional musical form, employing shifting key signatures, a lack of chorus or repetition, and heavy-handed use of reverb; and it has the impressive tendency to hypnotise most everyone that hears it, including the band itself.
Many a time I looked around me to see listeners with their eyes closed and heads down, undulating with the pulses of the music that grew faster and more intense with the music, and then looked back up to see the band shaking in what can only be described as musical orgasms with open mouths and eyes squeezed shut.
It was a tremendously… intimate experience, as if the band was sharing these special moments with the fans who loved their music so much.
The concert’s opening piece was essentially a three-minute crescendo of every note in the musical spectrum playing indiscordant synchronicity (check out their piece Green Sugar above if you want a taste of it). It was at that point that I realised earplugs might have been a good move, but when I moved to the back the sound became tolerable so perhaps that speaks more to the bar’s speaker setup than the band itself.
After this frankly overwhelming intro, they began immediately on their first piece which featured a grooving bass underneath dreamlike electronic rises, and when the sitar came in I really started enjoying myself. Like any set, there were pieces I loved—Kogarashi is a song I’ve added to my playlist, and frankly everyone should give it a listen—and pieces I didn’t, which were generally those that ended in mind-wracking highs that could shatter glass. But the fact that Kikagaku has such a range of styles speaks to their mastery of genre manipulation, and I’m certain there’ll be at least one piece everyone will love.
For the casual listener, however, there’s still reason to listen to Kikagaku’s music. Personally, I really enjoyed the quieter pieces, and the band has fantastic vocals—especially when harmonising—that have this serene quality to them. I spoke to a guy who follows the band around loyally when they’re in Australia, and he described them as ‘Eastern Jimmy Hendrix.’ I can see the resemblance; many of the pieces, the outfits they wore, the use of amplifier feedback as part of their music, all reminded me of the American guitarist. These softer pieces also have the benefit of easing a new listener into the genre-bending style of Kikagaku.
Overall, Kikagaku is a band I’ll keep an eye on for the next few years. They’ve got a website that you can jump on over to here and sample for yourself (I’d recommend starting at ‘House in the Tall Grass’), and I get the feeling there’ll be lots more to come in the future.