Globe tripping 

Psychedelic sounds from Japan to Brazil

Various Artists
Acid Mothers Temple Family Compilation
Earworm Records

Woe betide both the serious collector as well as the wary first-time buyer of anything by Acid Mothers Temple, the Japanese free rock/space jazz collective headed by lead shaman/guitarist Makoto Kawabata. Each passing week seems to bring a new release from these cosmic casualties, whose album art suggests that they spend most of their time gathering at neolithic spiritual sites around the world. Their prolific output, much of it in severely limited releases on teensy-weensy obscure labels, must surely vex avid followers of the group’s psychedelic space program as much as it makes it difficult for beginners to know where to break in. With so many—and such diverse—Acid Mothers Temple recordings to choose from, it’s hard to feel like you’ve done much more than rough out a pencil sketch of the cosmic ley-lines that obviously link Kawabata and his collective to some kind of higher consciousness on the strength of five albums, let alone one.

As a gift of sorts to the record-store waffler, Acid Mothers Temple presents Acid Mothers Temple Family Compilation as a kind of compromise. The first disc of the three-CD set consists of a single hour-long AMT track, an alternate version of a live staple that should appease experienced fans hungry for new material while providing initiates to this strangest of musical cults with (as Julian Cope once put it in reviewing another Acid Mothers Temple album) a minimum of irritants. “Pink Lady Lemonade” is like Pink Floyd under the influence of lunar gravity, a single blissed-out guitar riff played for a brain-purging 24 minutes over a burble of mad-scientist synthesizers, Gong-like meandering bass, squalls of guitar noise and ethereal sighs and whispers. After almost half an hour, the guitar breaks up into something like jazz improv and finally comes to a standstill, leaving the song hanging uneasily between feedback, machine noise and eventually a single unwavering note of (I think) bowed sitar. Then the original riff appears again right at the end—what, has it been a whole hour already? By this point the listener definitely feels like he’s gotten the idea of just how transcendentally AMT can spin a musical trance out of a single motif, and so his mind emerges from the experience properly tilled for further exploration into different albums. After all, you have to start somewhere.

The other two discs contain tracks by other artists in the extended Acid Mothers Temple family, most of whom seem to fit into the general picture of scattered tribes of musical cosmonauts reposing in nature between voyages to an Alpha Centauri of the mind. Many of them are Japanese artists with ties tight or loose to the constantly morphing AMT collective, some of them are from Europe and the United States, and all of them seem to be circling unknown worlds on the same improvisational orbit as head tripper Kawabata. As explained in Kawabata’s informative liner notes, these fellow travelers of sorts range from a pair of young Japanese pilgrims who “normally spend most of their time travelling around India and Morocco” to an underground Japanese cult figure whose life is dedicated to “free biking and free living.” Needless to say, a lot of the material on Acid Mothers Temple Family Compilation stands to challenge long-standing assumptions about the emphasis of conformity in Japanese society.

Friends in other countries (most of them musicians Kawabata and company have met on various tours) are represented on disc two, including fellow starship troopers Maquilodora from San Diego and Nepalese psychedelic artist Gopal. One chap just called Frédéric sings folksy French acoustic ballads, but their lyrical content hints at a lysergic acid aquifer running pretty close to the surface in Toulouse. Kawabata appears in some capacity on every track on disc three, with selections from his Private Tapes and many collaborations with various feedback drone/feedback guitarists and additional recordings with his musical soulmates from Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. (that’s their full official handle!).

And a hell of a lot more. There’s way too much happening on Acid Mothers Temple Family Compilation to absorb in ten sittings, much less do justice to in one short review. These far-flung musical realms need time to explore, and on that note I’ll just leave you with some words from your captain Kawabata Makoto: “Since my instant of oneness with the cosmos in May 1999, my music has become ever more personal. I truly believe that ‘my’ music is nothing more than the cosmos using my body as a conduit to reproduce its own sounds.”

Funny, I just heard Christina Aguilera saying the same thing on Total Request Live!Various Artists
Peace, Love and Poetry: Brazilian Psychedelic Music
Normal Records

In other words: more music from the Tropicalia movement in Brazil in the ’60s and early ’70s, only with an emphasis on obscure names over better-known proponents of the Brazilian psychedelic genre. Like a Brazilian version of Nuggets.

The U.S.-backed military coup that brought general Humberto Castelo to power in 1964 made playing music in Brazil a political act and put many of the country’s most adventurous and outspoken musicians at risk of imprisonment and torture. Luckily for us, south-of-the-border flower power survived under Castelo’s repressive regime and even blossomed into a genre that thirty years later can still be summed up handily under one flowery heading: Tropicalia. Notwithstanding the absence of familiar names like Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Os Mutantes, Peace, Love and Poetry is still a nifty document of underground sounds circa 1969-1975 in swingin’ São Paulo. If you’ve dabbled in Os Mutantes or either of the other aforementioned artists, this one’s right up your alley. Even if you haven’t, give it a try anyway. It’s groovy, baby—soundtrack music for Austin Powers Slips a Disc at a Brazilian Street Party.

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