Even if you don't play music, you know it's gotta hurt to play a 52-minute song. It doesn't matter how stalwart or seasoned the musicians involved happen to be it's still gotta hurt.
But if any band out there is capable of doing it, Osaka, Japan's Acid Mothers Temple is the candidate of choice. The ever-changing ensemble, whose songs average from 15-40 minutes in length, has been led by Makoto Kawabata since their inception 10 years ago a result of his sole, somewhat selfish goal to create records he just wasn't finding elsewhere. Kawabata wanted to hear the rusty, unpolished rock of the late '60s and early '70s blended with the burgeoning technology and consequent experimentation of the late '70s and early '80s. He made it so and then some.
Packed into all of that is Makoto's obviously diverse set of influences, not the least of which is the '60s (and onward) psychedelic band Gong. That ambiguously located European ensemble was convincingly led by drummer/composer Pierre Moerlen, who essentially controlled the band from the mid-'70s until his untimely death earlier this year. Having himself been a maestro of sorts who conducted a rotating cast of characters over a lengthy stretch of time, Moerlen was a massive influence on Kawabata, who even collaborated with a Moerlen-less Gong in 2004. When Moerlen passed away in his sleep unexpectedly this May, Kawabata wanted to pay homage via a tribute.
Hence the genesis of Kawabata's newest ensemble Acid Mothers Temple & the Cosmic Inferno. Forged from the likes of bands such as Zeni Geva, Boredoms, Ghost and White Heaven, The Cosmic Inferno explores territory unseen by their predecessor Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. The content of their first record, IAO Chant from the Cosmic Inferno, is based solely on a riff from one song Gong's "Master Builder." The resulting AMT song, "OM Riff From the Cosmic Inferno," clocks in at a staggering 52 minutes, distorting the original riff in a thousand directions in a feedback and reverb-drenched haze of repetitive circles.
But Kawabata's innovation doesn't so much stem from his source material as it does from the elements he throws together. His approach has always been to take musical elements or styles that have little or nothing to do with one another and then cram them together, nearly always stumbling upon something brilliantly, creepily new and unheard of.
The first LP from The Cosmic Inferno is an exercise in exactly that. There are two drummers both playing the same beat for all practical purposes, without even one playing behind or in front of the other. Where they differ is in their emphasis on the beats. The beat in "OM Riff …" is a constant, driving wash of cymbals and snare drums, blazing along at punk rock speeds for nearly the entire song, and though drummers Koji Shimura and Futoshi Okano might be playing the same beat, they're actually each playing different parts of it, alternating intensities around the kit and yet perfectly in sync with one another.
But the standout element of IAO Chant … has got to be the chant itself coming to life with a roar in the beginning and finally picking up into an ever-repetitive circular pattern, with bassist Mitsuru Tabata growling something over and over again that sounds like "Nobody! Nobody! Nobody! No! No! …" until the vocal dissolves entirely into the swirl of guitars and space echo in the middle of song before picking back up near the end to close it all out.
And yet all of that recorded effort will be cast to the wayside when the band performs in concert. As trance-inducing as they might be on record, Acid Mothers Temple was meant to be seen live. Most (if not all) of their records have classically been recorded live in-studio, yes but the sound quality of Acid Mothers Temple recordings has never done justice to the heaviness with which Kawabata's ensemble dominates a room. Compared to the live show, the records are almost toned-down as if you're watching the band on television rather than seeing a concert. It's just … contained. The sheer volume aside, the band's live performances are legendary for featuring reimagined, retooled, reworked improvisations of every one of their songs. Nothing is heard as it appears in its recorded form; everything takes new, unexplored shape every time the band gets onstage. Just bring your earplugs.
Acid Mothers Temple
with The Occasion
9 pm Friday, Oct. 14