May 18, 2009

ARTIST PROFILE: Kawabata Makoto & Acid Mothers Temple Collective (Japan)

Acid Mothers Temple And The Melting Paraiso UFO were a local group in Central Japan that I heard about several times during my two semesters spent there in ’00-’01, but never got a chance to see live until many years later. After returning from Japan, I researched the group further online, and found that a small but dedicated following of American fans was feverishly collecting the super-limited edition CDs being released seemingly monthly from the many group members. Kawabata Makoto was the central figure of the group, sort of like the leader of a Japanese hippie musician cult. Makoto claims to have grown up hearing cosmic sounds of UFOs in his mind’s ear during his childhood, which he gradually has translated into audible form by way of his guitar solos (and other obscure, traditional Asian stringed instruments). Acid Mothers Temple’s mission is to channel cosmic music from the highest UFO sources, sort of a Japanese Sun Ra but a lot noisier, and their catalogue of probably a hundred releases at this point voyages in many experimental directions. The band line-up has been composed of a huge variety of Japanese improvisation masters and unknowns, frequently changing and giving itself new names for each album, such as Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno and Acid Mothers Gong. The main bulk of the material can be characterized by extended passages of guitar drones and feedback, sometimes at a low rumble and other times swelling to a galactic roar, punctuated by throbbing ‘70s-kraut-rock-freak-out drums and synthesizer effects. Tracks frequently break the 15-20 minute mark, and are often trance-inducing with their pummeling rhythms and formless feedback. Other material by AMT’s side projects are less intense, and easier to listen to in general, such as the ambient meditations of Uchu and Floating Flower. Kawabata Makoto’s prolific solo-work in particular has stood out for me as some of the best in minimal, abstract drone ambient/noise that I’ve ever heard. Usually based around solo improvisations on some sort of stringed-instrument such as bouzouki, sirangi, sitar, cello, guitar, etc, the music alternates between soothing and meditative, and piercing and intense. My favorite of Kawabata’s works are his earlier ’00-’03 era of releases, as this was when I was actively collecting the band, and I lost steam as I was overwhelmed by the massive output that started happening around that point. From this period, “You Are The Moonshine”, “I’m In Your Inner Most” and “Infinite Love” are all fantastic collections of instrumental sessions on the less-noisy end of the AMT spectrum, although I realize these albums were typically limited editions of 1,000 or less, so you may be significantly more likely to find one of his many recent CDs from the past couple years. I was able to see Kawabata perform with the Acid Mothers Temple crew in San Francisco in I’m thinking ’05, and truly this is probably the best way to see this group in all their cosmic glory. UFO stands for “Underground Freak Out!”