Words by Anna Whittaker / Pics by Denise Wilson
Hailing from Tokyo, Kikagaku Moyo present what they call ‘feeling good music’ and the rest of us call psychedelic rock. Regulars across Europe and at festivals like Green Man, they make me feel like I should be in a field stoked up at least on sparkling wine under a hot sun. But tonight we are upstairs in the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath, a well-known Brummie institution and purveyor of live music.
Earthling Society, the guest band on first, are from somewhat closer to home in Fleetwood and also present psychedelic rock – kicking off with a nice blast of dry ice for that grungy atmosphere. I thought we’d be the eldest here but not so; a real mix are in the room tonight, perhaps reflecting the vintage of the bands.
‘Freedom’ is Earthling Society’s first track, with impressive bass played by someone who is clearly related to Steven Tyler. Or at least his face. But if this is psychedelic rock then I like it; a decent beat, blisteringly loud to the point of vibrating through my seat.
Displaying an impressive range of guitar skills, although rather lacking on the lyrics, this was made up for in the next track which sounds like a cross between Pearl Jam and Tame Impala with the bass turned up. This sort of music goes perfectly with my pint of Guinness and thank goodness the Hare & Hounds is somewhere with a bar in the same room as the gig; nothing worse than having to go back downstairs and leave the atmosphere and your seat. Although tonight’s young to middle aged (mainly male) audience are doing a great job of standing (no dancing yet) so maybe wouldn’t nick it anyway.
“This sounds a bit like War of the Worlds,” says NM (newish man) and I agree. Earthling Society finish with ‘Kosmik Suite’ (a clear crowd favourite) which starts with the unmistakable sound of being beamed up, then turns into a hard rock instrumental symphony with a Pink Floyd-esque bridge. If you like your heavy rock more instrumental and zen-like spaced out, less angry screaming, then you will like Earthling Society.
Kikagaku Moyo, tonight’s headline act, have been playing since 2012 and recording since 2013, so are relatively new by comparison to their support act. It’s the break before they come on, and I’m intrigued as there is a sitar player (an electric sitar, no less) bringing an unusual vibe. But after the initial intro, which sounds like a guitar-fuelled rain stick, I get it, ‘feeling good music’ definitely. The Beatles could’ve fallen off a roof to this; it makes me want to sit in a field and plait daisies into my hair, or possibly theirs.
The second track, ‘Kodama’, has real energy to it and inspires a bunch of iPhone recordings, but most people finally forget their phones and are bobbing up and down as an audience should.
I really like this, then the next track, ‘Smoke & Mirrors’, has such a great rhythm I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t like it. It’s not generic crowd-pleaser either, but Kikagaku Moyo switch up the rhythm and timing in each track building up a real buzz in the room. It’s easy to see how this band are playing practically every night in August across Europe; they’re getting into it as much as the crowd, so let the head-banging commence.
Kikagaku Moyo then switch over to acoustic guitar, which is more chilled and felt like being in a Japanese tea house (which I have experienced, albeit in Vancouver) but perhaps it was the tune or the sitar echoing the acoustic melody.
One criticism of tonight’s set is in the switch over between tracks, which is a little awkward. But once Kikagaku Moyo get going no they make up for it with really slick switches of tempo within the songs. A new track for the tour, ‘Samui’, goes down well and even gets a brief rash of crowd surfing.
Daoud Popal on lead guitar does a stunning job, building up to a wall of sound but by that time you’re floating off with the rhythm. Kikagaku Moyo are gentle enough to mellow out to, loud enough to keep you awake, and accomplished enough to make you want to hear more.
For more on Kikagaku Moyo, visit www.geometricpatterns.bandcamp.com
For more from Earthling Society, visit www.earthlingsociety.bandcamp.com
For more from Kushikatsu Records, visit www.kushikatsurecords.com
For more from the Hare & Hounds, including full events listings and online ticket sales, visit www.hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk