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Powerhouse Japanese Psych Band Comes to August Hall

By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The Japanese psych wayfarers who make up Kikagaku Moyo have built a sizable global following in the space of a decade. 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.

Kikagaku Moyo/幾何学模様 "Kodama" Official Music Video by Kikagaku Moyo on YouTube

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.

KIKAGAKU MOYO - "Tree Smoke" - Nox Orae 2016 by Nox Orae on YouTube

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 heaviest music yet.

Kikagaku Moyo - Masana Temples (2018) (Full Album) by Guruguru Brain on YouTube

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. In 2018, the group issued its fourth studio album, Masana Temples, a heady exploration of heavy guitar riffs and transporting sitar melodies that earned the band some of the best reviews of its short career.

Kikagaku Moyo - Full Performance (Live on KEXP) by KEXP on YouTube

While the coronavirus pandemic would put a damper on Kikagaku Moyo's activity since it last played the Bay Area -- selling out its biggest SF show yet at the Fillmore two years ago -- the band has managed a couple more releases. It was featured on a collaborative live recording that like-minded exploratory guitarist Ryley Walker put out on his Husky Pants label spotlighting a pair of extended jams. The band also released another concert document -- Live at Levitation -- as part of the Austin, TX psych festival's series of live albums that includes a recording from 2014 on one side and tracks captured at the festival five years later on the flip.

The group played several shows in the greater Bay Area last fall, including a special outdoor show with Walker in Big Sur and a headline concert at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. In January, the band announced to its shocked fanbase that it would be going on an indefinite hiatus after extensive touring in 2022, with its latest album -- the scintillating psychedelic juggernaut Kumoyo Island -- planned as its last recording. In addition to an early Friday night set at BottleRock Napa Valley, the beloved band will play what may be its final San Francisco show Saturday night at the sold-out August Hall. DJ Bootleg Bunny also appears.

Kikagaku Moyo
Saturday, May 27, 8 p.m. $36 (sold out)
August Hall


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