Hallucinogenic journeys with the soon-to-be-disbanding Japanese psychedelic rock band.
Earlier this year the great Japanese psych-prog-folk-jam-band Kikagaku Moyo released what they say will be their swan song. Called Kumoyo Island, it’s a wildly mesmerizing trip that, across a single LP, meanders through so many frequencies and tempos that it seems to contain a triple-album’s worth of musical ideas.
Before we offer any biography, here’s one of their most recent videos, for the Kumoyo Island track “Cardboard Pile,” which opens like a Hawkwind jam before gliding into a U-turn after a little more than a minute. The animated video surreally captures the lysergic energy of the music.
The band converged in 2012, ultimately landing on a line up of drummer/vocalist Go Kurosawa; Go’s brother, sitarist/keyboardist Ryu Kurosawa; guitarist/vocalist Tomo Katsurada; bassist Kotsu Guy; and guitarist Daoud Popal. Within a few years they were on the international psych circuit — most notably the Levitation Festival in Austin.
Their early performances, a member of the band bluntly told Aquarium Drunkard, featured a meditative approach that was due to “lack of ability. All bands in Japan are so good technically. When we were playing, we were so sloppy. So we said, ‘Let’s cover up.’ “How?’ ‘We can play drone and be really meditative.’ So people think we do something, like a theme.”
Below is a 2020 performance — by now they’re excellent instrumental technicians — at St. George’s church in Lisbon with guests Bruno Pernadas and Jacco Gardner.
Mixing curiously structured songs with improv-heavy excursions and lots of flowing drone, the quintet — who relocated to Amsterdam a few years after forming — struck a chord with fans looking to stretch and bend their minds.
The band also devoted remarkable attention to their visuals. Onstage, they looked the part, with glorious polyester print shirts, bellbottoms, flowing gowns, and long black hair. Their videos are hallucinogenic journeys.
Last year Kikagaku Mayo announced that their forthcoming album would be their last. Released in early ’22, Kumoyo Island is one of the most expansive and free rock albums you’ll hear this year. This summer the band took the show on the road. Here’s them at Thalia Hall in Chicago.
Below is their most recent video. Also taken from Kumoyo Island, it’s called “Gomugomu.” Collectors should know that their label, Guruguru Records, pressed up 8,000 vinyl copies, and a recent Bandcamp check indicated less than 150 remain.
This note included in the video, which was directed by Oya Yoshitsugu and Date Yuichi, reads:
The theme of our video is rebirth, from death to life. The story is based on the backwards reading of the Japanese 4-character idiom “Kacho-Fu-Fu-Getsu/月風鳥花” (Moon, Wind, Bird, and Flower). The regenerated lower half of the body (Kahanshin Kun) jumps out of the box and goes on a journey into the shifting world between the universe and other worlds. The story depicts a chaotic world where we do not know if there is any meaning or not. There is no right or wrong, real or fake, good or evil. LIFE GOES ON
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