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Arts in Review

Soundbite: Kikagaku Moyo — Stone Garden EP

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Kikagaku Moyo is a Japanese psychedelic band whose eclectically world-influenced music sets them apart from the recent influx of psychedelic garage rock.

According to their Bandcamp page, they formed as a music collective of Tokyo street buskers. Much of their music was written while backpacking the world — Stone Garden was recorded in a Prague basement.

I discovered the band the day after they played Vancouver (this kind of thing has become a trend) which is a shame because improvisation is a central component of their raison d’être.

I see Stone Garden as a template from which to build a live show. Yeah, it’s lacking in amplitude, especially compared to earlier works like Forest of Lost Children or House in the Tall Grass, but it offers something different. A live performance might fill in the gaps.

Taken together, this is laid back psych-rock, although each song seems to build on different musical themes. “Nobakitani” is a hot summer’s day narrated by the sitar; “Backlash” lashes back against clean production — or speakers that aren’t blown; “In a Coil” is the only song with lyrics, although they’re minimal and blend into the mix as another instrument.

My favourite part of the album: exactly five minutes into “In a Coil” the vocalist makes a “whoop” into the mic. It’s good stuff — reminiscent of a Stu Mackenzie mid-verse “whoop”, which is no surprise, as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s speedy and well-deserved rise to notoriety should have had some kind of influence on the boys in Kikagaku Moyo.

The only real gripe I have with the album is that it’s not an LP. A couple Stone Garden tracks are arguably more sparse than atmospheric psych-rock needs to be, but I still want more. Their previous album, 2016’s House in the Tall Grass is a more interesting album, and others before that displayed better composing; even still, Stone Garden isn’t a bad way to get acquainted with Kikagaku Moyo.

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