A while back I was lucky enough to see Kikagaku Moyo play live. The band plays a fusion of traditional Japanese music blended with psychedelic rock and although that description is fitting for anyone who has heard the band, it doesn’t quite describe how interesting and powerful that mix really is. In a bunch of their old recordings you can hear the search for that blend. In tracks like “Pond”, which is a twenty-seven minute jam sesh, you can hear Kikagaku Moyo working out their sound in a mesmerizing and intense way. Their latest album, Masana Temples, stands as an achievement to their found genre and was where most of the songs played this night came from.
The first piece I ever listened to by them was “Green Sugar”, so I may be partial when saying this, but I believe it was their best song of the night and a great example of the band. It begins light and upbeat, a dazzling sitar accompanies bass, drums, chimes, an electric guitar, with Tomo Katsurada’s excellent voice covering the room. The performance carries on like this, building and dropping and building and dropping. But somehow, without our knowledge or any abrupt change, two electric guitars are screeching at an unimaginably fast speed. It almost appears as improv, but all the instruments flow with perfection and the grins and nods of the players to each other confirm the fun they are having during this organized chaos. It almost seems impossible that this is the same song as the calm entrance that just was, although it feels like that melody was an hour ago. I am dancing like an idiot; the whole crowd is dancing like idiots.
Some songs had no words at all, and are just intense jam sessions. Players switch instruments, bringing in a violin, a cello, some acoustic guitar and a plethora of bells and small percussion instruments to fulfill each song.
The crowd was great and no one was tightly wound. Everyone seemed to get along and no one got tired, which is saying something for me. Everybody stood and slowly nodded at the same time, everybody danced at the same time and everybody went crazy in unity. It wasn’t until the encore that a pit opened up, as the music got more and more intense. To me, this truly felt like an old show. A pure sound of the ’60s in ways only described to us the way Sherry Shahan and Woodstock stories have through books and movies, but never in the full body experience.
An image of a band like The Beatles, spreading a message of love, rock & roll and the power of music comes to mind as corny as that may be. I was lucky enough to thank Daoud Popal after the show, who was just chilling outside the venue with a beer. Just like their music, Daoud was approachable and nice and I was able to thank him both for the show and the awesome trips Masana Temples has created for me. I never thought I could get more into this band than I already was, but seeing them live did just that. If you like psychedelic tunes, rock, sitar or just new and evolving music then taking in Kikagaku Moyo (which means Geometric Patterns in Japanese) is a worthwhile experience. My suggested songs for getting into them are “Majupose”, “Dripping Sun” and “Orange Peel” before diving into some of their older works. Check out their music below, as well as a link to the label they have created, as well as the videos of the show shot by me and my friend Asa Anderson.
Check out their record label here!