(Guruguru Brain, out Fri 5 Oct 2018)
Masana Temples is the fourth album from Japanese psych-rockers Kikagaku Moyo (which translates as geometric patterns) and represents something of a departure for the group, being generally tighter than their previous records. It is also by far their most eclectic effort to date. The members of the band have said this is to reflect the wandering nature of life on the road and the fact some of the group relocated to Europe. The band also ensured this eclecticism by recruiting jazz musician Bruno Pernadas to produce. All these factors lead the record to be a heady brew of multiple genres.
Given this diverse nature, the album can sometimes seem sprawling and messy. Certainly, not everything works, like the track Nazo Nazo – a poppy song that feels weightless and ponderous. Similarly the 96-second instrumental Amayadori which, while quite sweet, seems extraneous to requirements. Then again this might merely be the calm before the fuzzed out storm that is lead single Gatherings. This track is a sprawling near seven-minute cosmic psych odyssey which takes the listener down the rabbit hole with its gigantic swirling guitar sound. The song is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the record.
Even this track though is slightly eclipsed, both in track length and quality, by Dripping Sun. The track opens with a slinky bass line which would not be out of place in a Blaxploitation picture. Continuing this theme, we then launch into some funky slap bass. After this, we change gears entirely into dreamy melodic rock territory, only for the song to shift gears again into an all-out psychedelic guitar attack before briefly returning to the middle section in the outro. Curiously, despite the songs length (just shy of eight-minutes this time) and mood changes, the track feels neither overlong nor overstuffed.
While Dripping Sun and Gatherings are the absolute stand-outs, there are some other very good numbers too. Fluffy Kosmisch sounds like a cut from the soundtrack of a lost 70s sci-fi film and Nana is another track that takes you by surprise, predominantly being a jaunty pop-rock number, only for it to burst into a sitar freak-out in the last minute. Given all the woozy trippiness of the bulk of the record, one of the most surprising outings is closer Blanket Songs – surprising as it is just a straightforward folk song and a decent one at that.
Kikagaku Moyo are obviously not a band happy to rest on the laurels, and with Masana Temples they have produced an LP that, even if it does not always work, both consolidates and expands their sound. It will certainly be interesting to see where their sonic adventures take them next.