Alien8 Recordings; October 6, 2002
With our decade end list more or less finished I'd like to announce that no, this column has not permanently disappeared into the ether. As a matter of fact assuming that life doesn't proceed to kick me in the posterior further I intend to release a batch of another twenty reviews like I did last year (maybe more), and this time space them out a bit more prudently so you, good reader, get fewer stretches of zero activity. I've enjoyed being a contributor to this here blog and hope that my reviews inspire more long-term readership in the year to come.
So now that I've dispensed with the fucking Oxbridge pleasantries, let's have at this one shall we?
Acid Mothers Temple are continuing evidence that Japan produces way more crazed, prolific noisemakers per capita than anywhere else on Earth. And when I say prolific, I fucking mean it--since the inception of the band (which has grown to more of a loose collective, really) in 1995 the Acid Mothers have recorded a catalog of approximately one hundred releases, in various formats both limited edition and still in print, live and studio, under a series of different guises and with various lineups and collaborations and most of it released under their own label. That's a pretty serious work ethic.
Founding member and guitarist Kawabata Makoto remains the single Fripp-like constant in all the outfit's projects, and Electric Heavyland like most of the other records he's played on adheres very strongly to his general formula and vision. That is, don't expect a "song-oriented" AMT album, ever. No, the name of the game here is boundary-pushing (soundwise, lengthwise, etc.) free-form improvisation and experimentation that would make even the wildest of '70s prog acts look pretty limpdick. The volume level varies, but usually only by marginal degrees, and even AMT at their most accessible won't be getting radio play any time soon.
And this album is one of their loudest. Take the craziest space rock freakouts of Hawkwind in their Space Ritual prime, combine with the giant amp stacks of Blue Cheer, throw in the guitar musings of Tony Iommi, Hendrix and Ritchie Blackmore, add a totally wigged-out acid casualty on vocals (this one goes by the name "Cotton Casino") and put Akita Merzbow behind the boards and you have a general idea of what Electric Heavyland entails. This is some goddamn weapons-grade psychedelia right here and by no means the grooooovy, twee Donovan/Byrds/Zombies/Syd Barrett variety, oh no, but a thick swirling miasma of gritty distortion-pedal frenzy, spastic drumming, synth squigglies, wordless screams and a continuous low end rumble that suggests volcanic activity more than anything played by humans. There are only three tracks on the album, and none are less than fifteen minutes long. Get the picture?
This is just about the last thing you want to listen to while high. Try playing this album for an aging Deadhead and he'll probably hide under the furniture convinced that the aliens have returned to abduct him.
And yet--there is a psychotic beauty in what this band does. These jams do have a finite beginning and a finite end, and there is definite chemistry and phenomenally tight playing between those points even as the whole album feels like an endless cacophony. Take for example the lead guitar break seven minutes into the chaotic assault of "Atomic Rotary Grinding God" that is a prelude to about a minute of eerie ambient synth doodling, which then careens into a roaring Motorhead pummel. Then there's the lumbering, deranged riff that kickstarts "Loved and Confused" which is steadily deconstructed over the seventeen-minute track length. The closer "Phantom of Galactic Magnum" (Top 3 Most Badass Song Title, ever) finally blasts off into full freak-flag brainmelter mode, displaying some downright free jazzy inclinations while still being loud enough to obliterate entire solar systems. Sun Ra would be proud.
As of this date, I've heard only three of Acid Mothers Temple's recordings, but Electric Heavyland definitely makes me want to check out more of their oeuvre. This is the ultimate in space/psychedelic/stoner/whatever while still possessing the stones to thoroughly slaughter most any death metal band extant. Lovers of six-string mayhem need look no further.
If you love Hawkwind and other '70s mainstays from the harder end of the stoner rock spectrum along with more modern bands like Monster Magnet, there's a fair chance you can survive this. Fans of drone like Earth, SunnO))) and the like also seem to get into Electric Heavyland, despite being nearly their total sonic opposites other than track length and volume level. Everyone else is going to wonder what astral plane their brain left to after 51 minutes. This album does not fuck around, so caveat emptor.