After the success of last year's celebrated album House In The Tall Grass, Tokyo’s Kikagaku Moyo have unveiled a new EP. Stone Garden sees a change in direction for the group as they take on an experimental fusion of traditional Eastern influences, folk, rock, and jazz. It may sound like a mouthful, but the concept of this free-form exploitation of a global pedagogy has a creative freedom that is infectious.
Much of the EP appears to follow no rhythmic rules at all. It's pure synth jazz, all improvisation and movement, with the hint of a bassline desperately trying to hold on to the kite strings of soaring guitars. Songs don’t end as much as stop: “Backlash”, for instance, hits with a wall of sound that repeats in an uncommon form that is dazzling, contagious and exhausting in equal measure. It's a driving rhythm of psychedelic improvisation, clashing strings and explosive drum thrashes that build into a razor-sharp synth climax, never moving from the boil until the very last note.
But there is more to this release than just bold, ambitious sound. The unassuming “Nobakitani” is contrastingly tranquil, a summer’s day of hazy acoustic rifts that billow like smoke. The gears change as the unmistakable trill of the sitar ushers in the haunting vocals of lead singer Tomo Katsurada, as we are pushed along what feels like a traditional Indian raga in rhythm and texture. The melody is picked up in the synth squelches of the guitar, leaving the sitar to sing with flourishing delight.
There is an unambiguous Eastern influence swelling and wobbling against the score and, in places, being allowed to overpower the vocals so that the musicality is the focal point – shifting any perception of music as accompaniment. Stone Garden is an EP that impresses with its bulging and popping synths, where bass and strings dance around each other, pulling up and back to dive around again with an otherworldly and sensual pulsation.
Release: 21st April 2017, Guruguru Brain