Japanese psychedelic rock gurus Acid Mothers Temple bring a stunning night of new age techno-mysticism and fiery psych-rock jams to relatively new venue Metronome with support from an up-and-coming art punk outfit named shiftwork.
Acid Mothers Temple are a Japanese psychedelic, free improv, highly experimental band-come-collective who have gradually coalesced over the years from a large loose knit group of like-minded weirdos into one of the tightest live outfits in Japanese experimental music and all without losing any of their initial charm. The venue, Metronome, is a new fixture in Nottingham, having only opened last month. It offers a 350-capacity space for gigs and other “cross media” events in a convenient inner-city location a minute up the road from Pryzm and nearby tramlinks. The stage and lighting rival any other venue in Nottingham, being intimidatingly contemporary and offering artists the technical range needed to put on their best show, both sonically and visually. The space inside is austere (baring a passing resemblance to a post-modern Ikea showroom, likely owing to its salad days status) but incredibly spacious, tastefully lit and impressively stylish. They also have a very large, very functional bar if that’s what you’re after.
Unexpected openers shiftwork presented a pleasant surprise both for myself and many others there with a performance at once cathartic, noisy and executed with the tightness of an experienced touring outfit. Their tried-and-true brand of tightly-wound, prickly post-punk was tempered by the ever-present wall of guitar noise and shoegaze-adjacent melodies adding colour and delicacy to the harshness. They managed to execute and combine both these styles with the grit of Joy Division and the grace of Slowdive making their sound at once familiar and delightfully refreshing. A three piece, representing the bare bones of a rock band; guitar, bass and drums they still brought a sound more muscular than many far larger, flashier line-ups.
Each track built upon the core elements of simple, melodic basslines building in intensity, some impressively technical drumming that’s source can still be traced firmly to the gut (the upper-intestine I think), mind-bending but catchy guitar work and lastly their singer’s commanding and suitably dour voice, so perfectly suited for this music you’d think cloning technology and some of Mark E. Smith’s DNA had been involved. Occasionally they’d switch the guitar bass setup for 2 guitars displaying their impressive interplay and ear for melody with gorgeous interwinding arpeggios twisting and leading you through the songs like spiral stairs. They were also really, really, really fun.
The venue packed out about 9 as Acid Mothers Temple took the stage. What followed was a spectacle of what music can become when pushed to its extreme. Pulsating drones reminiscent of Indian classical music flowed and dissolved into acid-tinged guitar freak-outs, courtesy of group leader and guitar god Kawabata Makoto and styles, genres and eras faded into a whole. Now, it’s no secret amongst fans of Japanese psychedelic/experimental music (I’m sure the other 6 will all agree with me) that Makoto is a bloody good guitarist, but the man’s ability to stretch and extend his instrumental into an emotional guiding force for these songs has to be seen to be believed. His guitar squealed, shredded and gently plucked through these songs never once losing its catharsis, even at one point turning what smelled fishily like a Lynyrd Skynyrd riff into the take-off platform for an extended freeform odyssey through space twisting and reshaping the riff into new cosmic shapes like a beardy guitar-wielding deity. I found myself so transfixed, so lost in the scale and beauty of what I was hearing as well as my own struggle to mentally keep up, I could only stand and gorm like a 13th century peasant being introduced to Deliveroo. So, I stood until the end of each song, unable to slip away and replenish my stock of two Red Stripes.
A key element what makes Acid Mothers Temple a joy to watch is the obvious comradery of the band as each member plays excellently off each other. I’m particularly reminded of a moment when drummer Satoshima Nani started off one of the tracks with a fire and brimstone drum solo incantation and as I glanced to the side I saw Makoto pull out one of those early 2010’s digital cameras (the kind your mum would use to take blurry photos of your school award ceremonies and suspicious things the dog ate) and was taking photos of Nani along with the audience. Other core members included Higashi Hiroshi who provided stunning celestial synth lines that kept the music ever alien and icily beautiful, Jyonson Tsu whose multi-instrumental noodling’s on both the guitar and bouzouki (an instrument I was unaware it’s possible to shred on) provided an excellent counterpoint to Makoto and some passionate vocals and last but not least bassist Wolf brought a muscular edge to their heady psych-rock. One thing that struck me during the gig is, in spite of the fact you know full well you’re watching a well-oiled psychedelic titan consisting of genre veterans, it remains impossible throughout to shake the feeling you’re watching five goofball friends playing music they’ve always wanted to hear, but nobody else has had the balls to make.