Forest of Lost Children
(Beyond Beyond Is Beyond)
The up-and-coming Japanese psychedelic quintet Kikagaku Moyo, on its new album Forest of Lost Children, seems to prefer to use teleportation to various geographic and sonic locales and never settles on a single vibe throughout the album’s six tracks.
While the diversity is admirable and keeps the listeners on their toes, it also doesn’t quite let each song expand fully and spread its wings to get to dizzying heights. There’s an undercurrent of restraint with a cleanliness felt even through the fuzz-rock vamps, and the group’s poise is constantly maintained; perhaps in live performances, the band lets itself go with a little more freedom, but on record, there seems to be an awareness of borders with a self-consciousness.
The opening “Semicircle” is a faux ashram or hippie commune jam, with an acoustic guitar one-chord bed with sitar brush strokes and obligatory flute and tambourine accents, as if announcing, with small-font uppercase letters, yes, this is psychedelic folk.
However, the style abruptly jumps with the next track, “Kodama,” featuring an electric, driving blues-rock riff with delicate vocal harmonizing and a distant guitar solo, and it’s followed by “Smoke and Mirrors,” which is sort of like Golden Earring with wah guitar and the rhythmic jerk of “Take Five.”
The album’s superior second half begins with “Streets of Calcutta,” sporting a killer fuzz bass and sitar riff, and its salient melody can easily be imagined in some movie soundtrack.
The closing track, “White Moon,” takes things down to a calming, relaxed tempo with malleted drums, bowed strings and sitar flourishes that aren’t merely ornamental, perhaps sounding like an Indian version of Yo La Tengo, even down to the dreamy vocals.
“Dabbling” is too weak a word to describe what Kikagaku Moyo is doing on this album, but the group seems to consciously not paint itself into a corner, taking on the breadth of the psychedelic folk-rock genre with aplomb.
Those who remember the late-’80s television show “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” will certainly recall its silly yet kind of brilliant, catchy and self-referential theme song, with lyrics like, “This is the theme to Garry’s show” and “This is the music that you hear as you watch the credits.”
That ditty comes to mind when listening to the new avant-rock album 3xaWOMAN from the NYC trio People, which probably will win the award for “Most Self-Aware Album of 2014.” Parts of it are downright hilarious, but more importantly, it has a peculiar vitality and playful adventurousness mixed with a bit of punkish audacity.
Take for example the track “What’s So Woman About That Woman,” a fast and heavy garage-fuzz-rock stomper, with lyrics that explain that “four times a woman” is “too much woman,” followed by the admission that “Lionel Richie was right about how many times a woman.”
Two members will be familiar to those in tune with NYC’s avant-jazz scene—celebrated guitarist/vocalist Mary Halvorson and the formidable drummer Kevin Shea of Mostly Other People Do The Killing—and bassist Kyle Forester is a member of the pop band The Ladybug Transistor and Crystal Stilts.
Halvorson delivers agile and inspired playing with her trademark note-warping, and she sings with a clear, matter-of-fact tone; Shea lets his animalistic drumming discombobulate violently then lock into a pattern when the song calls for it. The core trio is augmented by trumpeter Peter Evans (Shea’s MOPDTK band mate) with horn players Sam Kulik and Dan Peck, playing Evans’ arrangements.
3xaWOMAN goes into fuzz-pop territory with “Piles for Miles,” with a discordant skronk slyly lurking between the steering chords, and the charmingly goofy “The Lyrics Are Simultaneously About How the Song Stars and What the Lyrics Are About” provides real-time commentary about itself, possibly a bit like a tongue-in-cheek take on Stark Reality’s music-theory primer “All You Need to Make Music.”
Don’t be fooled into thinking this might be a jazz album. No, it’s a smirking, way-left-of-center rock album that explodes with brash outbursts, disintegrates and regroups constantly, dancing around structures and teasing those who can’t handle the unpredictable.