Live London #2: Acid Mothers Temple And The Cosmic Inferno
I exited Elephant & Castle underground station via a secret side entrance that led beyond the grey labyrinth hewn into a grime ridden concrete maze. Within a few paces, situated beneath an overland railway track, was nestled the cavernous abode named Corsica Studios. A gloomy door guarded by three black-clad sentinels stood between a gaggle of supporters and the inevitable psychedelic onslaught.
Whether it is the distance, the alien culture or the enormous cost and rarity of imports, Japanese contemporary music has always sailed close to (Western) obsession. A recent London performance from Japrock noise trio Boris was met with enthused and emotional fans desperate to consume the plethora of merchandise; I even recall tears from a woman unable to secure the Japanese vinyl edition of the recent “Smile” LP! Original pressings of Les Rallizes Denudés, Flower Travellin’ Band and Taj Mahal Travellers fetch hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars at auction. Artists like Merzbow encourage excessive collecting, even with many one-off and obscure releases teamed with a mammoth discography. The idiosyncratic Japanese take on Western rock and noise, mixed with their own embryonic cultural explosion, have led to a sea of enigmatic and mythical releases. Kawabata Makoto’s Acid Mothers Temple has steadily built an army of followers through many alternate guises and hosts of limited and wondrous releases. It was with this fantastical backdrop that I journeyed to see this explosive collective for the very first time.
Purple light was fractured upon the glass surface of a rotating glitterball, plumes of smoke gathered to form a ghostly opacity surrounding an elevated stage. The audience had a pocket-sized space to squeeze into in their ever-growing numbers. This was to be an intense and sweaty evening of acid induced psychedelia. A multicoloured table of merchandise was poured over by a flock of frantic faces. Members of The Cosmic Inferno guided eager hands to various shirts, CDs, DVDs and LPs. The hoard of consumers was finally scattered by the emerging Brit-rockers – Hey Colossus.
Two guitarists began with a series of squeals and the lead singer seemed to be conferring uncomfortably with the drummer. Another singer was situated in the crowd, ready to scream a backdrop to the ensuing noise. I have seen many punk, screamo, post/math rock bands across both large stages and small pub corners. I’m afraid to say all, but a few, fade into a bland mix of all that’s banal in modern rock. I was sorely disappointed as I expected a psych/noise rock outfit with a British twist, along the lines of The Heads, but instead was greeted by what could have been a graduation party organised by 16 year old boys with a passion for punk and emo rock. With a yawn I found a path through the gradually thinning crowd to a huddled Kawabata Makoto.
Makoto was genuinely pumped at being there. Enthused by the sincere appraisal and worship of his UK fans, we walked and talked about the show and AMT. I wanted to know what made The Cosmic Inferno (in its current guise) different from AMT’s many other outfits.
Makoto – “We are a five-piece made up from bassist, keyboard, guitar and two drummers. It is the two drummers that give Cosmic Inferno a big, funky sound. One drummer is Pika (Pikachu) from Afririmpo. She is incredible and is able to tour for the first time!”
Peter – “How does this shape your sound?”
Makoto – “Our sound is more funky, 70’s disco sound also. We find rhythm and keep playing for 1-2-3 hours. Improvised guitar, heavy and fast. It is dancing music!”
Peter – “Anything you can tell me in regards to the future for AMT?”
Makoto – “No future, it just happens. What happens I don’t know, just keep on going.”
We talked until he was called on stage during which time I discovered a forthcoming duet project entitled Pikachu Makoto was planned for the near future. This all to brief interview led me to worm my way through a dense crowd to get a good position for the main attraction.
A blast of acid psych guitar, accompanied by freakout keyboard space waves and thunderous dual drumming opened the set with ten minutes of high-octane sound. The second movement took shape with the Sabbath-esque riffs of “Master of the Cosmic Inferno”. This epic groove blasted the crowd into a joyous rapture. The pounding beat thumped with the hypnotic power of Träd Gräs Och Stenar, amplified and on speed. The jam blossomed to a horrific conclusion leaving the crowd exhausted. Before the applause terminated the well-known chords of “Pink Lady Lemonade” began. The atmosphere was electric, as electric resonance and freeform psych rock gripped the crowd. The classic AMT anthem was delicately pushed with varying vocals from Pika and Mitsuru Tabata. The dual drumming and a scorching Makoto solo erupted the second half beyond all expectations. The track deepened into heavy bliss-out guitar mayhem nodding towards the recent “Recurring Dream And Apocalypse Of Darkness” LP. I was trying to decipher Makoto’s claims that 70’s disco would be involved, then I took one look at the crowd and realised the rhythmic convulsions and smiles were direct results of the music and the funky undercurrents hidden beneath washes of sound. A classic rambling post-Hendrix explosion took the show into its loud and intense second half.
By this stage my head was swimming with the sheer intensity of the night’s performance. It is rare to see such enjoyment in both the performers and the audience. I had witnessed some of the greatest over-the-top psychedelia this side of the 60’s. I was completely blown apart by the sonic invasion of these well-versed musicians. This was definitely a performance steeped in history and reference. It wasn’t making any drastic new statements, yet it filled the air with energy and happiness. Japanese alternative music has produced many fantastic outfits from High Rise to the recent phenomenon Aural Fit (check them out now!) and Acid Mothers Temple still remain one to watch. I encourage all that haven’t to seek refuge in the all-consuming world of Acid Mothers Temple.
-- Peter Taylor (12 August, 2008)