OWhen you think of psychedelic music, you think of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the 13th Floor Elevators, the blurry images of Woodstock. But for Japanese group Kikagaku Moyo, psychedelia is exemplified by their nation’s counter-cultural heroes, Acid Mothers Temple with their cauldron of intense fuzz, and Flower Travellin’ Band. Go Kurosawa, the leader of Kikagaku Moyo, also cites Tokyo today. “Music, cinema, culture, the freedom of not having to be technically perfect or restricted. Our psychedelia doesn’t come from the hippie scene, it’s in nature, it’s in the chants you hear at the temple. Watching people get on the train every day? It’s psychedelic.
The dynamic energy of a Kikagaku Moyo live show – a show in which the long-haired band members often digress into 10-minute jams – originates from Takadanobaba, a college neighborhood in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district in the early 1980s. 2010. Drifting between vintage stores, student-populated bars and late-night recording studios, the quintet formed and today, through nearly levitating live performances and spellbinding albums, they are at the forefront of Japanese rock music. But after the release of their fifth album, Kumoyo Island, Kikagaku Moyo broke up, after an international farewell tour: an explicitly anti-American choice to avoid continuing, even diluting, what they had created.
Kurosawa and Tomo Katsurada first met in 2012. The name Kikagaku Moyo translates to geometric patterns. “We were playing so much from midnight to 6 a.m. that the moment we passed out, we saw these geometric patterns in our eyelids,” says Katsurada. Kurosawa’s younger brother Ryu returned from India after training on sitar, bassist Kotsu Guy and guitarist Daoud Popal joined soon after, with Kurosawa on drums and Katsurada on guitar, the two commercial vocals . Their early jam sessions were defined by the band’s varied tastes in old school hip-hop, metal, Indian classic, blues and more. Their inexperience kept the band free, their sound nebulous: ambient stoner rock with loops, retro-fuzz guitar and sweeping sitar.
On their second record Forest of Lost Children, which shifts from Semicircle’s unstudied jam to Kodama’s bluesy guitar, followed by feverish sitar in their cover of Ananda Shankar’s Streets of Calcutta and dark melancholy in White Moon , a pattern emerged that Kikgaku Moyo would repeat with each subsequent album: Kurosowa’s drumming kicks off a crescendo that builds and then settles into a meditative ending.
“We don’t have a lot of lyrics because we want to give people the space to imagine their own journey with music. Every album is like a movie,” says Katsurada. Kumoyo Island feels like a solitary journey across a vast expanse. . “When I make music, I first try to create a playground for all five of us to play,” Kurosawa explains. “Adding words to that feels like a limit to that imagination. »
Kumoyo Island “is influenced by the experience of touring, car scenes and scenes, cultures that we have experienced,” says Katsurada. After performing in Japan and Europe, Kikagaku Moyo made his American debut in Berlin, a dimly lit hole in the wall in New York City, where the stage is a small platform just inches off the ground. I was present for this performance, standing so close to young Kurosawa’s sitar that I could touch it. Since then, venues have grown, but their drive to play, to expand riffs and solos beyond imagination, to lull audiences into a collective psyche, endures. On stage, they are hypnotic and funky, humorous and friendly, playing long solos to break your eardrums without hesitating to smile.
Once the album was finished, the decision to say goodbye came to the band, like their music, instinctively. “We achieved everything we wanted. We wanted to play psychedelic music festivals and tour the world, which we did. We’ve spent time and energy not only making music, but also creating art, merchandise, and a vision of what Kikagaku Moyo is all about. And we can now end our journey on our terms, on the highest possible note,” Kurosawa says.
The band are touring Europe this month – including Glastonbury – and then America, although their final show will be at home at the Fuji Rock Festival: A Full Circle. Katsurada and Kurosawa will return to their adopted base in Amsterdam, where they run Guruguru Brain, a record label committed to championing other esoteric acts. The band’s legacy remains inscribed, Katsurada says, in their “creative imperfection.” He concludes with a smile: “I hope that we will leave room for the younger generation to take over. It doesn’t matter their level of technical expertise or what part of the world they come from. I hope the message we conveyed is that it is possible for music to cross borders and language barriers.