By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The Japanese psych wayfarers who make up Kikagaku Moyo have built a solid global following in the space of a few short years. The Tokyo band got it’s start when principle songwriter Go Kurosawa (drums/vocals) and Tomo Katsurada (guitar/vocals) founded the band as a loose music collective, busking in the streets as a duo while refining an acoustic psych-folk sound that echoed the influence of German hippy experimentalists Amon Düül and Japanese band Taj Mahal Travellers.
They would add bass player Kotsu Guy and guitarist Daoud Popal, eventually expanding to a five piece when Go’s brother Ryu Kurosawa returned to Japan after studying sitar in India. The band recorded it’s first EP in the space of a day and posted it to their Bandcamp page. Those recordings would attract attention from interested listeners across the globe, including small Greek imprint Cosmic Eye Records who offered to issue a limited run of vinyl.
The band’s has continued to raise it’s profile with a steady stream of recordings that showcased a sound that — like their modern Japanese psych forebears in Ghost — deftly shifted from meditative acoustic grooves to howling, guitar-fueled space rock excursions into orbit. In 2015, the group issued a pair of 7-inch singles with mutual admirers Moon Duo (the noted U.S. drone/psych band that got its start in San Francisco) and Acid Mothers Temple guitarist Kawabata Makoto backed by Seattle group Kinski as part of a special series for God Unknown Records that quickly became collectors items.
Touring the world extensively with jaunts to Australia, the United States (they played Desert Daze in Southern California and the Austin Psych Fest in 2014) and Europe in addition to their native Japan, Kikagaku Moyo has established a reputation as a powerhouse performing unit. Last year, the group issued a follow-up to their acclaimed 2016 effort House in the Tall Grass that came out on Guruguru Brain Records. The Stone Garden EP found the quintet in propulsive, stoner-psych mode, unleashing some of their most compelling music yet.
The band had a busy 2018, touring the U.S. extensively with like-minded psych explorers Earthless and appearing onstage with the band at Roadburn 2018 in Holland in addition to appearing at such festivals as San Francisco’s Outside Lands and Desert Daze in Southern California. This past fall, the group issued its latest album, Masana Temples, a heady exploration of heavy guitar riffs and transporting melodies that has earned the band some of the best reviews of its short career.
Kikagaku Moyo returns to the Bay Area on Thursday night, headlining a sold-out show at the Independent with exploratory local jazz duo the Mattson 2. Made up of identical twins Jared (guitar) and Jonathan (drums), the pair became more widely known after their 2017 collaboration with Toro Y Moi principle Chaz Bundrick. Last year, they issued their stunning version of John Coltrane’s iconic spiritual suite A Love Supreme as well as Vaults of Eternity, a collection of covers that pays tribute to Japanese legends like Shintaro & Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Haruomi Hosono. The bill moves to Harlow’s in Sacramento on Friday with a psychedelic liquid light show provided by Mad Alchemy. This weekend, the bands and the light show will also appear at the intimate Fernwood Tavern in Big Sur for a pair of sold-out performances.
Kikagaku Moyo and the Mattson 2
Thursday, March 7, 8 p.m. $20 (sold out)
Friday, March 8, 8 p.m. $15-$18
Saturday-Sunday, March 9-10, 9 p.m. $28