For­mer buskers from Tokyo turn Eu­rope on to East­ern psychedelia.

Prog - - Intro -

You onlY get one chance to make a first im­pres­sion. Un­for­tu­nately for Ja­pa­nese ex­per­i­men­tal­ists Kik­a­gaku Moyo, they haven’t al­ways made the im­pres­sion they in­tended.

“When we started, we couldn’t re­ally play very well,” ex­plains drum­mer and vo­cal­ist Go Kuro­sawa.“So we thought we’d cre­ate a bit of mys­tery around us by play­ing one of our early shows in Tokyo com­pletely cov­ered in smoke.

“We thought,‘No one will be able to see us be­cause we’re in­vis­i­ble, and peo­ple will think we’re spe­cial.’” Un­for­tu­nately, there were un­in­tended side-ef­fects. “The venue thought that some­thing had been set on fire, so they called the fire brigade, stopped the show and we were banned from the venue for life.”

Thank­fully, in the years since their 2012 for­ma­tion as a “free mu­sic col­lec­tive”, the band have gone on to find more un­der­stand­ing homes for their shows, a sta­ble line-up and an en­thu­si­as­tic fol­low­ing, even af­ter re­veal­ing their faces to the world. We meet them as they pre­pare to re­lease their fourth al­bum, Masana Tem­ples, their most fo­cused, groove-based re­lease yet, but one which re­tains a free­wheel­ing, genre-fluid vibe about it, born of their ori­gins busk­ing for hours on end in the lesser-pop­u­lated metro sta­tions of Tokyo, which served as their re­hearsal spaces in the early days.

“On the street or in the metro you can play for­ever,” says gui­tarist Tomo Kat­surada.“We’d only make three or four eu­ros a day but we didn’t care. We’d get kicked out a lot and moved on but some sta­tions, where there were less cops, you could play all night. It was bet­ter than pay­ing for a stu­dio or prac­tice room.”

If that sounds like the kind of bo­hemian, im­prov-heavy ori­gins that spawned the early krautrock bands and many more late-60s prog groups formed out of com­mu­nal liv­ing and a shared cre­ative phi­los­o­phy, it’s no ac­ci­dent. Echoes of krautrock and the Can­ter­bury scene are ev­i­dent along­side hints of David Ax­el­rod’s psy­che­delic stu­dio vi­sions.

“Can were a big in­spi­ra­tion for us, and also the Bri­tish folk rock move­ment,” Kuro­sawa ad­mits. “We’re fans of peo­ple like Soft Ma­chine, but we also like the jazz ap­proach of Magma. Yet all of this is com­bined, I think, with a Ja­pa­nese sense of melody.”

They mostly record live with few over­dubs, and share the psych era’s in­ter­est in East­ern ex­ot­ica, ev­i­denced in the si­tar play­ing of Go’s brother Ryu, who was taught by leg­endary mae­stro Mani­lal Nag.

“He still goes to In­dia once a year, and has Skype lessons from his guru,” says the el­der Kuro­sawa.

De­spite their Ja­pa­nese ori­gins, the five-piece are now an in­ter­na­tional af­fair, partly based in Am­s­ter­dam. That’s where Go and Tomo run Gu­ruguru Brain, a la­bel aim­ing to pro­mote south-east Asian prog and psych mu­sic to west­ern au­di­ences. Can they rec­om­mend any of their ros­ter?

“Mi­nami Deutsch have a great new record this year and will be tour­ing Eu­rope next year, and Sun­days & Cy­bele, from Hokkaido, play in the UK this au­tumn – they’re more like Ja­pa­nese prog.

“What they have in com­mon with us is that they take West­ern rock forms and add their own Asian iden­tity.” JS



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