LIVE: Acid Mothers Temple @ Deaf Institute | 09.11.18
WORDS BY PATRICK PRESTON PHOTOS BY TY KELLEY
Trudging through the ghostly silence of the ornate Deaf Institute staircase, I sneak a glance at tonight’s downstairs bar punters – the laughter and frivolities betraying an obvious innocence of the momentous meeting of psych-rock spirits whispering above. The legendary Japanese experimental noise group Acid Mothers Temple certainly still pull a crowd well into their 23-year existence, and tonight’s stop on the ‘Electric Dream Ecstasy’ tour is no different; the venue’s main room is packed to the rafters, with all inches of the unique back-room seating area looking uniformly filled out through the aromatic, sweat-inducing haze.
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Assembling into a tight stage formation – and half dressed like space warlocks – the band graciously and quietly thank their audience, noting that it’s an honour to be chosen as tonight’s entertainment over the King Crimson show taking place at Bridgewater Hall, in a decision that will not have come lightly to most here.
Some distant, spacey chords and an ominous vocal build into wailing guitar and virtuosic, scattered drumming, with the spectral Higashi Hiroshi’s twisting synth parts lending an additional air of disconcerting tumult. Ringleader Kawabata Makoto teases this with bursts of guitar noise, which calm into a monolithic drone, before once again speeding into a frantic amorphousness, with relentless percussion bubbling underneath. This acts as naught but a warmup, however, with the cape-wearing Jyonson Syu cutting through the post-applause silence with a haunting bouzouki line and a dismal vocal, summoning the epic ‘Dark Star Blues’ – before the quintet delicately shimmers into thunderous sludge rock riffing.
Played masterfully straight, a mid-point breather is punctured by a rollicking drum solo from percussionist Satoshima Nani, which powerfully wrests and skitters around the kit before melting into a sparse, airy disco beat. At this point the enigmatically-named bassist Wolf joins in with a rigidly pulsing two-note octave melody, worming its way into listeners’ skulls for what seems like an eternity, before the group breaks into the hypnotic, sun-dappled guitar line of ‘Pink Lady Lemonade’, which elicits a faint murmur of crowd recognition.
Again, the melody is carried throughout alternating periods of psych-rock blowout and relative, trembling calm, but its full return holds an ultimate sense of triumph; the looping, nestled guitar part provides a backdrop for spoken band member introductions, handled with genuine delight and humility, as well as the requisite applause, before reprising the harmonious noise alongside intricate, pin-pricking bass-lines and intensely furious drumming.
The night’s coda is summoned with a melodious synth line, which is met with instrumental matching and Syu’s languid vocals, yet anchored by galloping percussion, and stretches off into the unending night. For better or worse, the thick, overdubbed noise which has for years typified Acid Mothers Temple becomes unmasked in extraordinary live settings such as these, where the band’s sheer instrumental mastery and generous showmanship can’t help but shine through the haze.