Live Review: Kikagaku Moyo at Scala (08/11/18)

Kikagaku Moyo (Japanese for “geometric patterns”) is a very pure, true to life long-haired five-piece of psychedelic explorers from Tokyo, Japan. Characterising themselves as “feeling good music” -which is an accurate self-description to no small extent-, the band started as a free music band in the summer of 2012. The quintet has released 2 EPs: Mammatus Clouds (2014) and Stone Garden (2017); and 4 albums: Kikagaku Moyo (2013), Forest of Lost Children (2014), House in the Tall Grass (2016) and latest release Masana Temples, which is just one month old (5th October 2018). Masana Temples is the result of the band’s pilgrimage to Lisbon in order to record the LP with renowned jazz musician Bruno Pernadas.

“More than the literal interpretation of being on a journey, the album’s always changing sonic panorama reflects the spiritual connection of the band moving through this all together. Inspecting the harmonies and disparities between these perspectives, the group reflects the emotional impact of their nomadic paths. The music is the product of time spent in motion and all of the bending mindsets that come with it” –Kikagaku Moyo on their Bandcamp page

It was surprising to see such an affordable production (£14,85) at Scala. The packed venue corroborated just how the show had sold out. The compressed audience made it somewhat uncomfortable to pass through carrying drinks, which inevitably kept falling on the sticky floor. It felt overbooked.

‘Green Sugar’ (House in the Tall Grass, 2016) was the first song of Kikagaku’s evening. A hipster millennial crowd commented how cool the sitar looked and sounded like. The bouncy bass guitar exposed a potent, distinguished sound. The band unfolded old-school 70s shirts which made oneself at home, nostalgic-wise. Simple, toned-down drumming left 6+ string instruments (two guitars and the sitar) plenty of room for sweet improvisation. The jamming followed in ‘Kogarashi’ (House in the Tall Grass, 2016), now taken over by the quirky, extremely imaginative sitar now wrapped up in orange stage lights. The band was summoning a chilling stroll in the Oriental woods, so it seemed.

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Take it easy for a little while with Kikagaku Moyo

For ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ (Forest of Lost Children, 2014), one of the fan favourites, the drummer became the lead vocalist. Generating a flawless dancing vibe amongst the standing crowd, it was quite fascinating to see the song start so energetic and finish switching to a lo-fi, slow blues sweetness. ‘Old Snow, White Sun’  (House in the Tall Grass, 2016) saw the two electric guitars off stage: one of the guitarists sat down and switched their instrument for a cello; then the other laid hold of an acoustic guitar. The reinvigorating acoustic folk-symphonic song carried the listener to one of Haruki Murakami’s nature-centred magical realism novels (see ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’ by the Japanese author). ‘Cardigan Song’ (House in the Tall Grass, 2016) inserted some juvenile grooves with ‘wah-wah’ effects on the electric guitar whilst sitar was changed into keyboard synths. A fantastic resemblance of a Western prosecution. To top off, Arctic Monkeys-like guitar distortion called forth some shouting from amazed young adults.

At ‘Entrance’ (Masana Temples, 2018) it was evident that the bass’ sound had been changed to mimic the bouncy, almost playful sound of the first track of the evening. The keyboard brought up pleasant organ effects. The drum line transformed into some unexpected dirtier clatter. All of a sudden, Kikagaku Moyo had transfigured into an alternative stoner rock band. The last song before the encore, ‘Dripping Sun’ (Masana Temples, 2018), was a very interesting mix of oriental folk with alternative groovy music; sort of a dialogue between the European rhythm section (bass-drums) and the Oriental string section (guitar-sitar). Full of intrigue and inspiration.

The first encore, ‘Gatherings’ (Masana Temples, 2018) proved that Masana Temples is not just a break-through album: the song brought KM back from European influences to their home of psychedelic folk, nevertheless accompanied by some space-age synths. The second and last encore, ‘Silver Owl’ (House in the Tall Grass, 2016), which could totally serve as a festival closing song, concluded Kikagaku’s conversion to Europe’s contemporary rock n roll… Royal Blood smirks in the distance.

Biased note: it was a shame to see such a filthy floor post-Kikagaku. Would it be so hard to hang onto your cans until the end of the show and posterior dumpster search?

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Clean after yourselves!

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