Earlier this year, Japanese psych band Kikagaku Moyo announced they would be taking an indefinite hiatus after their 2022 tour. It’s always surprising when a group of successful globetrotters call them one day at the top of their game. , and that their multitudes of fans got pissed off in response to the news. Over the past decade, Kikagaku Moyo have become one of the few cult bands to differentiate between underground psychedelic heads and more mainstream indie-rock audiences, a la Wooden Shjips and Earthless. And they deserve this wider attention for how ingeniously they’ve toed the line between immaculate songcraft and space-age experimentation. Kikagaku Moyo (whose name means “Geometric Patterns”) formed in Tokyo in 2012 around the duo of drummer Go Kurosawa and guitarist Tomo Katsurada, then expanded into a quintuple influenced by a disparate mix of sounds, including Indian music, hip-hop, black metal and power pop.
Japanese audiences weren’t particularly welcoming to the band, so they turned their sights to the United States, playing events such as Austin Psych Fest and releasing albums on American labels including New York-based Beyond Beyond Is Beyond. . In recent years, Kikagaku Moyo has been circling his psychedelic asses (except during pandemic lockdowns, of course) and debuting his own imprint, Guruguru Brain. While their hiatus is a sad development, at least they’re coming out with a bang: to coincide with this tour, they’ve just released their swansong LP, Kumoyo Island (Guruguru Brain). The seeds for the album were planted while the band was stuck in Amsterdam during the early days of the pandemic and germinated in a studio in Tokyo’s Shitamachi district.
The album is a fitting epitaph; the songs on Kumoyo Island sound like the culmination of Kikagaku Moyo’s shared musical experiences. Opener “Monaka” (named after a type of Japanese adzuki bean candy) is inspired by minyo, a style of Japanese folk music, and aided by sitar, serpentine wah-wah guitar, and a funky groove; “Dancing Blue” hits just as hard. It’s nice to hear the band sing in their native language (they sometimes use their own invented tonal language), which they also do on the sweet “Yayoi, Iyayoi”, which turns into a fierce Flower Travellin’ style. Band. weird trance. Overloaded oriental-style guitar adorns “Field of Tiger Lillies” and “Nap Song” is a sweet sleepwalker (as you’d expect from its name). The group even covers “Meu Mar”, a dreamy piece by Brazilian troubadour Erasmo Carlos – a bold choice, given the aesthetic distance. “Maison Silk Road” and “Daydream Soda” (which wins Song of the Year for me) are the most musically difficult tracks on the LP, with densely layered field recordings and unidentifiable sounds that could have come from from beyond. It’ll be interesting to see how Kikagaku Moyo recreates these songs live, and I’m curious to see how well they mix them with back-catalog material at this final show in Chicago.
Kikagaku MoyoJoshua Abrams, Tue, 5/24, 8:30 p.m., Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport, sold out, 17+