Saturday, November 17, 2007

Acid Mothers Temple at Stereo, Glasgow, 16th November

There was a live review in Plan B not so long ago saying that the Acid Mothers experience is one which has been scaled down in recent years, and this is true to some extent. I first saw them in 1998, and they tore the roof off the Art School in a way I’ve never seen bettered, or even approached. A juggernaut of noise, incessant and appalling, delivered by creatures from hell or from space. Suhara Keizo looked as though he was having the most fun, with a fixed chubby grin, violently bouncing his bass around; Cotton Casino leaned over her analogue bubble box, twisting knobs and shrieking into the mic, swigging beer between times; Kawabata Mokoto threw his Stratocaster into furious transports (or did it throw him?), jerking upwards to shoulder level and floating there, as though filled with helium. The two-note racket of ‘Speed Guru’ extended over fifteen, twenty minutes, the most exhilarating noise imaginable.

Kawabata Mokoto has spoken of the first Acid Mothers’ LP, which is still the best way to experience the visceral thrill that exploded at us that night, as more or less a solo record. Plenty of people play on it, but he put it together, overdubbing, editing, and it stands as their statement of intent, the key songs being ‘Speed Guru’ and the slower, beautifully trippy ‘Pink Lady Lemonade’. The record ends with several minutes of a tone so piercing you have to turn it off. This out of the way, Acid Mothers went about the business of becoming a band, and subsequent LPs (or the ones I’ve heard, a fraction of their massive output) are gentler, more rounded, more collaborative. Still plenty noisy, of course.

Acid Mothers are now down to a four-piece. Cotton has gone, which is sad, but Higashi Hiroshi fills in on the bubble box, and sings even if he doesn’t scream. He gives the band a different kind of presence, with his long black / grey hair and measured baritone. Kawabata is the same as ever, and this is what you really go to see: his guitar tantrums, his mass of curls (hair is important in this band), the sheer presence of the man. I don’t have any kind of religious belief, but I believe him when he says he picks the music up out of the air, channelling what the spirits have to say through his great and noble band. Tonight they slip onstage, crash with no ado at all into a slab of their trademark noise and it’s a thrill like it always is.

After a relatively brief first song, they play what sounds very much like a cover of Stereolab’s ‘Metronomic Underground’ (plus crunch, minus vocals), before starting up ‘Pink Lady Lemonade’ to cheers of recognition, and staying with it for the remainder of the set. It’s hard to say how long this might have been – the song’s hypnotic pull shreds any consciousness of time passing. A lot of Acid Mothers songs do this. Dip in here or there and you mightn’t notice much difference, but the cumulative effect is what counts. Some time later, the pace hots up, the single spidery riff has been set going in our heads, and Kawabata cuts the rope holding us to the ground, leaving the notes to continue in imagination only as he piles on the rubble with frantic movements across the fretboard. Later still he swings the guitar over his head a few times and you think ‘cool, but who doesn’t do that?’ until he somehow manages to hook it high up into the lighting rig and suddenly magic has happened again: never mind how he did it, the guitar which has spent years in his hands climbing vainly upwards only to be restrained with epic and everlasting solos, has broken free and now hangs, looking not a little lethal, from the ceiling. If we were outside it would be halfway to heaven by now. And we’d be looking down, watching it ascend.

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