It’s impossible to know what went through their minds as they took to the stage. The husky evening was drawing to a close and a throng of people young and old were awaiting their arrival. You could tell by the serene calm, and gentle nods, of their collective heads, that they were grateful if a little unprepared for such a rapturous crowd. Perhaps they were nervy as to whether the music itself would be understandable. They had much to prove. An impressive back catalogue of albums, EPs and singles has accumulated over the last few years and the group has wowed even the most cynical of record collectors. Could they really be as winsome and heavy as their records convey? Are they the latest in cosmic wranglers like their native predecessors The Flower Travelling Band or the Taj Mahal Travellers? Is there any clout behind their nostalgic leanings or is it just hipster posturing?
The clamour quickly died down and the band remained stoic, almost mute as they plugged in and fired up their various instruments, The most notable of these, at the from of the stage being an electric sitar. A difficult instrument to master and even harder to utilise in a contemporary setting without coming across as ironic or pretentious.
The meekness for all intensive purposes appears to have been a ruse. The first ten, fifteen minutes were filled with a light tinkling at first, a staccato drum rhythm that built into a steady groove as they wrestled with creating a melody. Vocals drifted in from one side of the room and fazed across to the other. It felt very sedate and innocuous, as if they weren’t sure we were ready. They held back but then something happened. They realised we were thirsty for something more, something wilder and, they knew it was time to awaken the noise they’ve been subduing. It started as a riff, a raucous chugging thing, not particularly intricate upon initial hearing, but hidden within was magic. A titan from the depths.
For the rest of the set, they unleashed a far from quiet fury. The music blistered and peeled away the skin yet somehow retained a sense of decorum and composure that befits their national heritage. Relying heavily on material from last year’s Masana Temples LP they managed to make the light fixtures shudder and drinks spill over. Heads swayed and eyes widened. The music was uncomfortably familiar showcasing their repeated usage of excessive sonic impulses and disciplined rhythmic structures. The crowd whooped and hollowed when the opening chords of ‘Dripping Sun’ bubbled up. In fact, the songs title alludes to the feeling they achieved as they roared through its entirety, generating layers of pure vibrational energy.
That’s not to say the set wasn’t without a sense of musical variation or lacking in depth. The sitar alone added the appropriate folk embellishment to the pulverising psych rock riffs. There were moments of serenity, humour and utter peace amidst the sustained squall, places to retreat to within the storm. Instrumentation drifted in and out of focus as the band reached their peaks and then mellowed out. Tonight, Kikagaku Moyo emerged, from afar, as honourable warriors, shyly blossoming before our wonder filled eyes.