Apparently mainman Kawabata Makoto set his guitar alight during the climax of the “full standard live show” Acid Mothers Temple performed at Corsica Studios the night before they played at Cafe Oto. For their second London show in as many nights they promised something different, a set of “electric jazz rock”.
AMT are veterans of the road. They play so many shows it’s surprising they stay so fresh, but their willingness to stretch their necks out and mix things up a bit (at Oto last year, for instance, they played a primarily acoustic set), and – perhaps more importantly – their willingness to have a bit of fun, set them apart from other equally seasoned bands.
That said, when they began their first of two sets with a loosely swinging funk rock number which was little more than unexceptional fun, it was tempting to wish a clash with Six Organs of Admittance hadn’t prevented a trip to Corsica the night before. But when it was finished, bassist/vocalist Tsuyama Atsushi broke the ice and raised a few laughs from the audience and his bandmates with his broken English: “So sorry; we cannot play the jazz. We are just psychedelic, rock n roll band. We like…Deep Purple. So sorry.”
From then on, AMT played fast and loose with the conventions of prog and psych rock, peaking early with a threatening blast of over-amped, Blue Cheer-style garage metal, and then running through a sequence of numbers that seemed loosely arranged but couldn’t have been better constructed to showcase this band at its most playfully creative.
Throughout the concert, Atsushi continued to act as MC in his secondary role as ‘cosmic joker’, introducing each number and interspersing some with ad-libbed songs, and switching from bass to clarinet whenever Acid Mothers threatened to slip into straight-ahead psych rock. Equally jokey interludes from his band mates also helped to leaven the set.
A jaunty number in dance time inspired a demented jig from Mitsuru and synth player Higashi Hiroshi, and a percussion duet by drummer Shimura Koji and Makoto devolved into chaos when Makoto dropped a pair of what looked like metal lampshades onto the cymbals: Koji ended up playing them in theatrical silence off his own body.
During the long picaresque jams that framed these anarchic interludes, Mokoto’s lead guitar mostly played second fiddle to Mitsuru’s cleaner style. For his own part, Mitsuru increasingly favoured the bold note-shapes of his guitar synth, a choice that overcame a serious feedback issue with either Mitsuru’s guitar or Atsushi’s bass. Compounded by the violent distortion effect of one of Mitsuru’s pedals, this sometimes rendered inaudible the essential unifying transmissions of Hiroshi’s synth. Worse, it threatened any unprotected eardrums with permanent damage.
. Atsushi contrived an introduction to the second set by jokily reciting from a flyer he’d picked up during the interval (“Super-Silent. Featuring: John-Paul-Jones. Oh; wow.”) and the others fell in around him. Here they found their groove, and thereafter played it increasingly straight with a long jam framed around a clear melodic sequence repeated by Mitsuru. Acid Mothers grooved ever closer to the motorik rock of space ritual, and Mokoto’s lead guitar extrapolations grew ever more extravagant. The set finished with a sprightly blast through AMT classic, “Pink Lady Lemonade”. The blend of frivolity and purposeful intensity vividly recaptured AMTs early spirit, as recorded by albums such as Absolutely Freak Out (Zap Your Mind!!).
When roars of approval greeted the end of the show, Atushi and Tabata Mitsuru, sitting together at Oto’s piano, improvised a playful duet, and that apparently encouraged Makoto to lead the rest of the troupe back out for an encore.
Finally unleashing waves of coruscating psychedelic noise, Makoto channelled some of the darker energies that feed into AMTs most uncompromising work, and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. sounded ever more like his offshoot power trio Mainliner, collectively playing with a crushing intensity AMT have rarely approximated on record (Electric Heavyland comes closest). When it peaked, Mokoto left his guitar hanging, hooked on a suspended speaker cabinet.
I’ve seen Acid Mothers live a few times now, but I’ve never enjoyed a set more than this one. They were such a joy, that their performance thankfuly did much to erase the memory of an earlier set by their guest, Japanese artist Satoshi Yamada, aka / HI / ZO / U / BU / TU.
At first quirky and amusing, Yamada’s schtick soon palled. He began by muttering inaudibly, and pleading with the audience for “flash”. Getting down on the floor behind a prone double bass, he dragged a heavy metal object around on the concrete. Crawling across to the feet of the front row, he clumsily triggered a basic drone from an array of mostly untouched effects pedals, and tweaked the monitors to vary it a bit. Then he stood behind the bass with a power drill in his hands, and eventually turned it on. He stood like that for a while, motionless, then began to drill holes into the shoulder of the bass. All the while, the drill made a drilling sound, as drills do. And that was it.
I only ever recall one more abject performance, and that involved two naked Belgian ‘performance artists’, drinking their own excreta from a bucket.
On this tour, Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. were:
Tsuyama Atsushi bass, voice, cosmic joker
Shimura Koji drums, latino cool
Higashi Hiroshi synthesizer, dancin’king
Tabata Mitsuru guitar, guitar synthesizer, maratab
Kawabata Makoto guitar, speed guru
Fushitsusha, John Butcher and Temperatures at St John at Hackney, 5 October 2012
Korekyojinn, Charles Hayward, and Ruins Songs at Cafe Oto, 3 October 2012
You can see more of Mike Winship’s AMT photography on his Flickr page.