Say Psych: Album Review: Kikagaku Moyo – Masana Temples

Masana is a fictional word created by Kikagaku Moyo to express a utopian feeling, an existence where everything can interact harmoniously and offer inspiration and understanding. The fourth LP from the band, Masana Temples, radiates this vision, architecting a vibrating world that isn’t confined to the known limits of what came before it. Kikagaku Moyo have progressed from their early days in Tokyo’s experimental scene to travelling the world with their mind-bending sounds, exploring different facets of psychedelia on each new release and blowing minds with a live show that was just as searching as their records. The shifting dimensions of Masana Temples are informed by various experiences the band have had travelling through life together, ranging from the months spent on tour to making a pilgrimage to Lisbon to record the album with jazz musician Bruno Pernadas. The songs came together in the wake of the band breaking up the communal house most of them had shared in Tokyo, with some members relocating to Amsterdam, and others moving to different parts of Japan. Transitioning from being based in the scene they had roots in to scattering around various locales made for an even more enhanced understanding of how mystically connected the sum of their parts were when the band reunited to record new material. The music is the product of time spent in motion and all of the bending mindsets that come with it.

The band sought out Pernadas both out of admiration for his music and in an intentional move to work with a producer who came from a wildly different background. With Masana Temples, the band wanted to challenge their own concepts of what psychedelic music could be. Elements of both the attentive folk and wild-eyed rocking sides of the band are still intact throughout Masana Temples, but they’re sharper and more defined. Without sacrificing any of their experimental impulses, the songs are more composed and cohesive. 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 all this as a unit.

Opening track ‘Entrance’ is a blissed-out sitar instrumental which builds in intensity before fading out and moving into ‘Dripping Sun’ which channels a funk groove, overlaid with psychedelic riffs to create something that falls in between. Its infectious vibe permeates to set feet tapping before changing tact to a slower, more melodic number with vocals being added as the final piece of the puzzle. ‘Nazo Nazo’ is a different entity, with a slower tempo and more pronounced elements throughout. ‘Fluffy Kosmisch’ channels some serious kraut rock influences (as its names hints at) but with a unique Kikagaku Moyo twist, some ethereal vocal interplay and a race to the finish. Then we move into ‘Majupose’, a track which harks back to past offerings strongly.

‘Nana’ however fires straight back to the present, returning to a funk laden groove once more. ‘Orange Peel’ once again slows the pace, with the overall interchanging pace creating a sway within the album, keeping the listener constantly on their toes, not knowing which way they will go next. ‘Amayadori’ offers a melodic instrumental interlude, before ‘Gatherings’ proceeds almost exactly where ‘Orange Peel’ left off, but with a meatier bass line and a more pronounced synth riff. The repetition draws one deeper into the track whilst the addition of new segments at regular intervals keeps it interesting. It descends to a full scale kraut rock jam as it finishes before ‘Blanket Songs’ concludes the album.

Kikagaku Moyo are known as experimental psych pioneers, and in Masana Temples they thoroughly live up to their reputation, pushing the boundaries to create a unique LP which captivates from start to finish.

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