By David Peter Simon | November 22nd, 2011
The recent Acid Mothers Temple show I attended was like nothing I’ve ever seen or heard before. For starters, it felt like we were transported back in time the second we walked into the venue, with characters that looked like something straight out of to 1960s protest-filled Japan surrounding the stage.
Acid Mothers Temple is, hands down, the most unique band you can see perform live today. I say that with complete confidence, since Captain Beefheart is long dead and, to my knowledge, Alejandro Jodorowsky doesn’t tour as a musical artist. Acid Mothers Temple thus rightfully kills the competition for audacious originality and stunning presence. It’s no surprise that around the world people call AMT shows the best performance they’ve ever seen.
Acid Mothers Temple is a collective of sorts – an amalgamation of many bands all starting with the name Acid Mothers Temple. Think of it like the Broken Social Scene of Japan’s experimental noise/space rock scene — they add members at will for recordings and tour with a different set of musicians constantly.
It’s in their nature to be so free spirited: Acid Mothers Temple is, in fact, a sort of commune of Japanese artists all united by the slogan “Do Whatever You Want, Don’t Do Whatever You Don’t Want!!” They have houses all over Japan that they move freely between, and according to their bio, today embody a 30 member+ movement. Best described on the “gossips” section of their site,
“One of our members is a farmer, living together with his fields and rice paddies. There’s another member who has traveled through the Australian deserts and lived with Aborigines. There’s others who are bumming round India. One went to Africa and never came back. One dropped out of a yakuza gang and decided to travel around Japan searching for mermaids. But we all live according to our slogan, and we all eventually return to the fold. [We] respect each others’ ways of life, and we try not to tie each other down. The “soul collective” only exists so that we can protect our freedom.”
Right… now that you’ve sort of got an idea of who we’re dealing with, you can see what I mean by “most unique band ever.” Their show last night started off with two, very distinct solo sets by members Tsuyama Atsushi and Kawabata Makoto. Atushi was out of his mind, in a good way. He played a wide variety of instruments and created interesting pieces using the combination of a loop and delay machine, which he fondly referred to as his wife. Most songs were short and ended with an abrupt “Thank you.” Atushi the whole time maintained an incredible audience relationship, going into full character while singing a Tom Wait’s version of King Crimson’s “I Talk to the Wind” (Japanese version!) and occasionally stopping mid-song to just chat.
Next up was a very different type of show put on by Acid Mothers Temple lead Makoto who played a dark noise set that he apologetically explained “will put you to sleep.” In spite of what he said, his concentration was so intense it automatically evaporated all the joking energy left behind by Atushi and kept the audience’s attention entirely.
The final set, an acoustic performance by the four, currently permanent members of Acid Mothers Temple, was like a combo of the two opening acts plus more. The drone improvisational rock act was the definition of psychedelic, and I’m pretty sure there were a few people in the crowd who were tripping off more than good vibes.
With long jam songs, ghostly ambient transitions, unintelliglbe babble, an aesthetic straight out of “Kill Bill,” an ethos rooted in a different way of living and songs like the featured “Chinese Flying Saucer,” it is impossible not to concede that Acid Mothers Temple belongs in a Murakami-esque parallel universe where the West’s influence of jazz and rock are prominent in the philosophies of every Japanese man or woman, and books like Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” reflect their daily lives.
The show ended on surreal note, with Atushi shamelessly (albeit hilariously) promoting their 15 press limited edition vinyl of their newest record, “The Ripper at the Heaven’s Gate of Dark,” by doing circles with it over his head while chanting in unison with the rest of AMT. Marketing geniuses or just quirky? They did sell out their stock within the first 5 minutes…
You can learn more about Acid Mothers Temple on their website.