Pikacyu★Makoto – OM Sweet Home : We Are Shining Stars From Darkside

31/07/2011 § Leave a comment

Pikacyu*Makoto put on an amazing live show. I came across a video of theirs several weeks ago and was stunned by their energy, exuberance, acumen and general lack of give-a-fuckery towards music. Highlights veered between Makato thrashing around in an ape suit, Pikacyu squeaking like a rusted hinge while attacking the drums with vehemence and hatred, and at other times hanging off the roof truss screaming into a contact mic. It looked very much like an intriguing, aural-porn fusion of Aaron Dilloway and The White Stripes [well, someone had to make The White Stripes references].

This is really what art should be about these days. Especially when the music scene is all too full of overcautious copycat cheats desperate to push themselves up on each others’ heads, it’s refreshing to see a band turn up the flame and hurl their instruments around like balls in a tombola. But what happens all too often is the mistranslation from live show to disc. It’s a very difficult thing to do, and many bands have desperately tried to capture the energy of their live performances on CD with varying degrees of non-success. At The Drive in, for instance, recorded all of In/Casino/Out as a live studio album, whereas the eponymous Black Sabbath was recorded in only one day. It seems real energy only gets focussed into these discs when the band are under some kind of pressure or stress, otherwise the sense of urgency and ingenuity doesn’t quite come across. One shouldn’t be doing second takes on spontaneity.

So We Are Shining Stars From Darkside is a more downtuned, downturned and downbeat offering on disc from what you’d expect if you’d seen the band in a live setting. The main thrust of Pikacyu*Makoto’s work is psychedelic rock with a large quanity of experimental passages thrown in, recorded in a distanced, far-off manner to give it that spacey, ethereal sound all too common in the world of neo-psychedelia. Most of the guitar and instrumental work is undertaken by Acid Mother Temple’s Makoto, the multi-armed, multi-talented musician who seems to have his fingers in as many pies as Shiva on the munchies, and Pika (Higashi Mineko) who takes care of all the drum and vocal work, as well as the guitar on the final track, I’m In You.

Where the album succeeds is in the longer numbers. WASSFD depends on time in order to get its message successfully across – time to generate atmosphere and time to throw in as many elements of chaotic disorder as possible, hence Birth Star and the 11-minute Back To Your House Over The Rainbow are by far the most victorious numbers. Pika sings or shrieks her way through each track while Makoto provides the heaviest contribution to the atmosphere through the viscosity of his rolling and swirling guitar playing, thick with piquant coarseness. Here we see the true irony of the band, since though they deliver their messages most successfully in an erratic, frenzied manner onstage, the more introspective and spacelike moments shine brightest on CD.

So it’s a shame that most of the album isn’t made up of the latter, since the louder moments of WASSFD come across as either unconvincing, unmoving or just irritating. The Ginger Chai, for instance, is one of the most annoying songs I’ve heard in recent memory, a mid-paced, unbothered rock track with Pika bleeting “chai chai chai, chai-chai chai-chai-chai” like a little girl in a tantrum for seven minutes. Oscar No Hope is a 25-second, pointless, dissonant guitar splurge and AWA No UTU is four minutes of Pika whistling and babbling like a Priory in-patient. Done on occasion, moments like this could have spiced up the album with some interest and excitement, but they’re just too common: after several tracks the feel of the thing does get slightly tedious and we’re left craving for those longer, more involved pieces where the band get really successful at sculpting their own presence in the world of psychedelic rock.

What did we expect though, this is experimental music after all. Not every experiment is a success though – and Pikacyu*Makoto are still very much going through the iterations. I would love to see these people live, but listening to their recorded output is another matter entirely. WASSFD is a speculative work of experimental noise rock, and it feels like it. The Japanese have always been world leaders at the bizarre, but these days it takes a lot to make even the bizarre special. In a genre that has seen it all, Pikacyu*Makoto have what it takes to stand out, but this disc is purely a disc of potential, an detonative charge that never quite explodes as planned. Ironically, enforcing some musical boundaries – rather than trying to escape them – could make a second disc far more absorbing.

Rating: 2.5/5

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