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When I visited Japan many moons ago, a resident of Tokyo said to me, “We, Japanese, may not have invented a lot of things, but we make them better.” I had no rebuttal because what he said was true. Cars, virtually every electronic gadget out there, the convenience store experience, and even ice cream (yes, the Japanese make fantastic ice cream). I don’t think, however, the gentleman was referring to music when he shared his observation with me.
This leads us to Kikagaku Moyo, the quintet from Tokyo who have been creating a stir in their home country and abroad, particularly Europe, with their psychedelic rock. The buzz around the band has only increased with the arrival of their new album, House in the Tall Grass. Unlike many groups who are trying to replicate the feverish psychedelia of Thee Oh Sees or Ty Segall, Kikagaku Moyo is revisiting – and re-defining – the music of the late ’60s and ’70s, taking us down the psychedelic paths of the Ravi Shankar-influenced work of The Beatles and George Harrison and the sonic prisms of Pink Floyd. The culmination is a ten-track album of multi-color soundscapes, which, even though we may not understand a single word being said (the entire album is in Japanese), elicit different moods and emotions.
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The groovy “Green Sugar” opens the album with a summery disposition before spiraling into a wave of wah-wah guitars. “Kogarashi” is the worldly, trippy psychedelia that Shankar and Harrison introduced in the early ’70s. The sitar is dazzlingly loopy. “Melted Crystal” incorporates textures of traditional Japanese music (could a shamisen be in use?) to create a relaxing, sedating mood while “Cardigan Song” is like bedtime lullaby.
Not everything is what is seems, though. “Trad” starts off with a dark, haunting vibe before climaxing into a whirlwind of blazing guitars. It’s less psychedelic, but more garage-rock a la Dinosaur, Jr. Meanwhile, the album’s star, “Silver Owl”, has a sense of Pink Floyd-esque drama and cinematic sci-fi in “Silver Owl”, which at first lulls us into a peaceful trance before ending with a bang – specifically, three minutes of blistering guitars, shimming sitar, and crushing drums. This ten-minute epic is an experience, an entire album fit into a single song. It’s a microcosm of what House in the Tall Grass – a musical masterpiece.
Kikigaku Moyo are Tomo Katsurada (vocals/guitar), Daoud Popal (guitar), Ryu Kurosawa (sitar/organ), Kotsuguy (bass), and Go Kurosawa (drums/vocals).
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