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

Locrian / Continent Split

01/01/2009 § Leave a comment

Artist: Split Album / Collaboration
Title: Locrian / Continent Split
Label: Self Released
Genre: Drone/ Noise/ Death Metal/ Thrash Metal

Track Listing:

Side A:

Locrian – Burying The Carnival

Side B:

Continent – Widow Insitania; Gulf of Baiae; Bec Amica Rolls; C44-9W

This is a split release between Locrian and Continent

It’s been a while since I had the opportunity to come across a tape release, but in a time when most major computer manufacturers have whipped out their A-drives and even minidisks have been long-consigned to the Betamax hall of shame, there are some bands who look fondly on them with nostalgia. This is all very well but I have to wonder who really has a cassette player that they use regularly. Maybe people who shop at Dunn & Co and look forward to reruns of To The Manor Born, or who wax on about how Phil Collins ruined Genesis. I wouldn’t know.

But there is one thing that I really liked straightaway about this small, oblong package, which was the art. There’s not much you can cram onto a cassette inlay but there’s something eerily bleak about the black and white pictures in this split release, depicting forgotten, run down offices with hanging strip lighting, and car parks contained within ridged concrete slabs while wallflowers struggle to grow between the cracks. Sure, it’s a cliché especially over in the ambient scene but some clichés are still quite pleasing and this one seems to work even better when glimpsed through the clear plastic of this particular format. I can only hope that either band choose to preserve and expand on this theme for future releases.

Locrian take side A with the ear and brain-shredding cacophony that is Burying The Carnival. This harpy’s nightmare, clocking in at just under thirteen minutes, is an industrial wail of an opus. A long, pained guitar and feedback-ridden shriek with all the finesse of a thousand screeching pylons, and just as much power. The playing is divided into a droning, undercurrented bass hum that runs its full length and lays some kind of hellish foundation and a tinny, acute guitar line that skips and runs over it manically, playfully mocking its heaviness.

This is certainly noise with structure, though at first listen it may sound like a botched television transmission from the netherworld. The droning bass moan that underlies the track throughout is the closest I’ve heard an instrument come to sounding like a human scream. It’s the angst of a voice that doesn’t know what to say, the cry of a mind that can’t express itself and soon, like some otherworldly spectre being pulled against its will into a séance, we find ourselves in an almost ritualistic trance under the control of such horrific authority.

The guitar that plays over the top of the drone is a piercing hiss of notes, but which still manages to remain lucid, even tuneful in places. Playing around with basic melodies and structures it hints that there is some method beyond the noise whilst we get lost in the dizzy whirl of the maelstrom. As the drones and lead guitar build and combine, Burying The Carnival thickens into a stupor and we find a certain aesthetic in its ugliness. This isn’t just disorganised, slapdash clamour but a bold, ordered statement about the ambience of intensity and when the lead guitar drops, leaving only the moaning background hum, it feels as if we’ve been released from a grip that we had no control over, such is the compulsive nature of what Locrian manage to create.

The B side is taken by Continent, a death/thrash metalcore band who have an obsession with train wrecks, coincidentally enough. Well, according to the pictures on their MySpace page anyway. Within 16 minutes Continent worm their way through four tracks of pretty standard metal by constructing songs which are mostly based around repetitive melodic death riffs which, though not particularly catchy, still manage to deliver something of a punch. In contrast to side A of the split it’s something far more generic and though I welcomed its all too familiar battery when it started, it didn’t really hold my attention all that long.

However, I’ll forgive these guys somewhat since it’s early days for them. The four tracks may be sloppy in places and the drumming’s a little too ambitious but I get the impression that Continent are in for the long haul. There are some parts which even reminded me of Death in places and there are some nice progressive passages which save it from being a homogenous onslaught. If they just improved on the definition of their songs there might be a chance their next effort could make them stand out and there are moments in Bel Amica Rolls and C44-9W that provide some variety and stop the music being indiscriminate mush, though unfortunately it’s not quite enough to save it from being just another run of the mill demo.

Limited to a hundred copies only, there aren’t many of these cassettes to go round but both bands urge you to contact them directly should you want any of the last remaining copies. Failing that, and if the lure of holding something physical in your hands is way too last century, you’ll find all the tracks are streamed on both band’s MySpace pages. Overall it’s an eye-opening and ear-drum taxing experience. You can interpret that any way you want, and you probably wouldn’t be wrong.

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