Julian Cope’s Album of the Month
Acid Mothers TemplePataphisical Freak Out MU!
AOTM #7, December 2000ce
Released 1999 on PSF
'Music is the one incorporeal entrance into higher worlds of knowledge which comprehends mankind, but which mankind cannot comprehend.'
"Education! Education! Education!" I screamed at my audience every night on this recent British tour. Fist in the air and black lips pouting, I kept my spoken riffs as clear and as succinct as any barbarian artist could hope to, given the circumstances of performed rock'n'roll. But parallel with the singular trinity of this Odinist chant was my assertion that NO-ONE, be they rock'n'roller, artist, writer or healer, could effectively take up their duty as an Agent of Change if they had merely stumbled upon the Trip and then just taken it as it came. Without affecting physical changes, via dress style, personal conduct, eating habits, etc., the effectiveness of the trip would be seriously diminished. In other words, by ritually making themselves and those around them positively aware that he/she himself/herself had grasped the importance of this quest, the new shaman/artist should not only endeavour to stay true to the trail, but, highly importantly, be SEEN to be sticking to it.
Acid Mothers Temple appears to be the product of just such a shaman/artist, the Japanese guitarist Kawabata Makoto. For the sleevenote on this album asserts that Acid Mothers Temple is a "collective led by Kawabata Makoto [in which] there are currently around thirty members; famous and unknown, musicians, artists, dancers, farmers, etc." These people clearly want to be SEEN to as Agents of Change.
December's Album of the Month has been chosen from all of Kawabata Makoto's other works and associated releases because I feel it best reflects his work, and most easily introduces it, to those previously unaware of him. Kawabato Makoto is a beautiful and bearded longhair who has been making music since the late 70s. Alongside the many albums of Acid Mothers Temple, he has more recently played that incredibly fast digitally-distorted stuff on the Mainliner LPs, plus "motor psycho guitar" with Tokyo's Musica Transonic, the power trio who term themselves a "contemporary improvised heavy psychedelic group". Of course, both of these Tokyo groups are the vision of High Rise's vocalist, seer and bass player, Asahito Nanjo. And what High Rise, Musica Transonic and Mainliner superficially all have most in common is total dedication to mercilessly loud electric power rock.
But unlike the short-haired Nanjo's dedication to volume, the long-haired Kawabata Makoto also embraces a wide variety of acoustic rock'n'roll, mainly seen in his solo work. And, whereas Nanjo's longest songs are rarely over ten-minutes (and often around two-and-a-half!), Kawabata Makoto often uses the releases of Acid Mothers Temple to bring forth "Maggot Brain"-styled freak outs of up to 25-minutes long. And whereas Musica Transonic choose to further clothe their songs in mystery by spelling all their titles in that computer font called "Symbol",1 Acid Mothers Temple make theirs more impenetrable by titling each piece as though it were a sub-part of the previous song, in the grand Prog tradition. Whatever, it works for sure. And I for one have real head trips trying to work out up to what point I have listened in their albums.2
Cosmic Jokers with their very own TV gnome
Acid Mothers Temple inhabits a kind of Farenheit 451 imaginary-future-based-on-aspects-of-the-past scenario. Taking elements from Funkadelic, Amon Duul 1, the Cosmic Jokers and Virgin-period Gong, they throw-up mighty splurges of sound ranging from Bermuda Triangle divebomber power trio to multitudinous auxiliary-membered Hapshash & the Coloured Coat "Help Me, I'm a Rock" Familiar Ugly Free-Form Freak out. On album sleeves, sometimes they are a nine-piece, sometimes a seven-piece, their mysterious line-up always photographed on sacred hillsides or beside stones, often clutching skulls, wearing monks' hoods, the women sometimes naked, and, apart from Kawabata Makoto, it's never obvious quite who does what.3
Identifying the splendid form of Koizumi Hajime is dead easy. He's the black-bearded cowled drummer with the skull-on-a-pole. Besides, his album credit is always "drums, monk". Then again, there's another cowled figure on the sleeve who's probably Father Moo. Drudes, what proof do I have? Well he's smaller than the others and his credit is "Father Moo: TV gnome", though other Temple albums credit him as "Telstar gnome"! I've never heard his eponymous solo album on Swordfish Records or his remix album, Father Moo & the Black Sheep, so I'm still clueless as to what sound he contributes to Acid Mothers Temple. I'd love to be able to say, "Shit, there's no TV gnome on track 3, the fuckers erased his performance!" But I can't, so let's just be happy that he's in the group at all.
And this is the essence of Acid Mothers Temple. Sure they have Cotton Casino on vocals and "space whisper", so they clearly dig Gong's Shakti Yoni, but they also have Yoshida Fumio whose credit is "hardy guidey" and nothing else! Yes, they feature Tsuyama Atsushi on bass and "cosmic joker", so we know they're into the whole Rolf Ulrich Kaiser scene, but they also feature "Lovely Ayano: Space hi!". Indeed, another woman just known as Yoko is credited solely as "Cheesecake, photograph". After all that, Magic Aum Gigi's credit of "voice, erotic underground" is comparatively tame. Maybe I'm looking too deeply - any band which features a "Melting Paraiso U.F.O." (What the hell is a 'paraiso'?) in its title is deep in the heart of a weirdness of Brian Batesian proportions.
Pataphisical Freak Out MU!
But on to the album review for real. I've picked Pataphisical Freak Out MU because it features the fewest irritants of any Acid Mothers Temple LP I know,4 and because I played the CD over & over on this past Autumn tour, for myself and for anyone else who would listen.
The album opens with the Faust Tapes-meets-Cosmic Jokers spoken word of "Cosmic Audrey", their friend Audrey Ginester cast in the role of Gille Letmann, here speaking in echoed French over drones and monosynths, pre-preparing us for the weirdness to come. Then huge demented feedback guitar propels us headlong into the wild blazing, chordless free-form rock of "Acid Takion". Here, the group is the power trio from soundcheck hell, as the ARP tone generator kicks the wa-everything of the guitar, bass and drums into greater and greater sonic speedballs, finally breaking off in a club-footed stop-go of calamitous sludge.
"White Summer of Love" follows as a beautiful echoed breeze, as though Tim Buckley's Lorca is being played by both Amon Duul 1 and 2 simultaneously. Distant female wa-vocals and twitterings, resembling Dr. Fiorella Terenzi's Music from the Galaxies, permeate an arpeggio'd belltone electric guitar, until it cuts directly into Kawabata's restrained but motorik "Third Eye of the Whole World", which brings forth still more Faust Tapes-like meditative groove.
"Golden Bat Blues Dedd" is a scrappy pedestrian open-cymballed blues dirge played in the Adams Family crypt by Lurch and Herman Munster. It's the Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band LP distilled and unashamed, as though Ringo Starr and Klaus Voorman had had 30 years in which to re-train their minds for Yoko's impossible banshee assault rather than being thrown defenceless headlong into her piranha tank armed only with a knowledge of cod. It's shameless and spastically beautiful, and it segues straight into the arcane Pictish Cajun bagpipe drone of "Mr. Hardy Guidey Man", here credited as being traditional. Oh sure, it sounds traditional - about as much as the similarly bagpipe-led "Caledonia" does on Cro-Magnon's 1969 freakout LP Orgasm.
"Magic Aum LSD" is one minute of spoken cosmic word from the Acid Mothers' self-styled "erotic underground" member Magic Aum Gigi, then we're off into the greatest track ever recorded by Acid Mothers Temple. This incredible dislocated slow thrash known as "Astrological Overdrive" is fuelled and driven by a thrashing and chromatic descending chord sequence over which the three female vocalists bill and coo and hum and hah something about "my daddy", while bubbling Rick Danko bass and furiously soloing drums giddy up the mix. Its thrashing, ringing deep-bowled jazz electric is beautiful, oh it's so beautiful - like Al Archer from Dexy's meets Pete Towsnhend in an emotional string-shred-o-thon; like a Spanish galleon top heavy with dubloons spinning around the edge of an Atlantic-sized whirlpool, threatening to teeter over and sink at any moment.
Then we're off into the three-part psychedelic speed wa-metal of "Right About Rainbow I/You're my Only Super Sunshine/Right About Rainbow II". Aren't the titles of these tracks from the netherland of the cosmos? There's something about the Japanese take on English which pitches even the most obvious names into a translated Mid-Atlantic trench of semi-understanding. Of which the same can be said about the warped Norman Collier stun-guitar of "You're my Only Super Sunshine". Crackling incoherence on a busted mike your music teacher keeps insisting you return to the school - but you ain't got the nerve to tell him you trashed the fucker weeks ago.
And so to the final song of the album, "Blue Velvet Blues". Slow slow slow, it's an achey breakey heart-attack of congealed "Signed DC"; a one chord minor key maelstrom. But it's the Out Here version as opposed to the one on the first Love album. And you know how Gary Rowles' 11-minute super-eloquent burn-up on "Love is More Than Words (Better Late Than Never)"5 forewarned us of 1970s metal-to-come? Well, imagine that he'd appeared throughout that whole album, rather than just on the one track, and imagine that Arthur Lee had given him the same free rein throughout, and you're getting close to imagining this final track. One chord, 25-and-a-half minutes, Nuff Said.
And that's the album of the month for December. I just pray that Acid Mothers Temple will keep on re-recording on that same piece of old 24-track tape. The Goddess alone knows how decayed their future albums will sound at this rate. I missed their show at the Garage this November, as I was still on tour. But they have a live album due out about now, and it'll hopefully be never off my turntable!
- I have no idea whether, being Japanese, they even know that the computer font known as Symbol is a fake Cyrillic somewhere between Greek and Russian.
- Thighpaulsandra and I employed a similar tactic on the Elizabeth Vagina album by Queen Elizabeth. Our method was to give certain songs impenetrably long names, some after Welsh Neolithic sites.
- Cotton Casino: vocals and synthesizer
Tsuyama Atsushi: vocals
Higashi Hiroshi: synthesizer and guitar
Kawabata Makoto: guitars
Ozawa Ryo: drums.
- For example, the main body of the van Piskov Wild Gals-a-Go-Go LP is bookended, front and back, by the high-pitched psychic noogie of "Reverse of the Universe" parts 1 while the first LP opens with the blazing 20-minute "Speed Guru", which could more readily pass as a Mainliner outtake.
- Some stupid retro-headed arsehole re-issued that lost-classic Love album, but re-titled it Out There, and cut "Love is More Than Words" down from 11-minutes to 4-minutes. Fuck them. Buy the double-vinyl for half the price from some non-head dealer and have the bonfires and fireworks of November 5th 365 days a year.