Acid Mothers Temple is not so much a band, as a way of being, with founder member Kawabata Makoto fronting its Melting Paraiso U.F.O offshoot for over twenty years. Along with long-time collaborator, the magnificently bewhiskered Higashi Hiroshi, and a bunch of similarly disposed musicians, he came to the Waterfront Studio in Norwich with the noble intention of taking us all on a mind bending trip out into space.
Before all that, however, were the decidedly more grounded Organisms, one of two local bands in support. The Norwich based outfit played a curious blend of garage rock and psychedelia, overlaid with vocals reminiscent of Mark E Smith. It was an intriguing, and pleasingly discordant mix, but they’re an introspective lot, turning inward on themselves as they noodle away, as if they’d be altogether happier back in the rehearsal room. There was much to admire in their relaxed style and louche delivery, but they could do with cheering up a bit.
In sharp contrast, Guranfoe (harkening from the bright lights of Old Buckingham and Diss) were a model of syncopated precision. Not necessarily better, just different. Audaciously leaving it until half way through their instrumental set before taking a break long enough for a round of applause, this was accomplished playing that bordered on showing off. With complex time signatures and unfathomable key changes that brought to mind the meticulous playing of Robert Fripp, the combination of overlapping guitar solos, an emphatic beat and delicious bass patterns made for a mesmerising performance. Heavily indebted to the progressive rock music of the seventies, this was nonetheless a mile away from the lazy indulgence that grew to typify the movement.
Acid Mothers Temple also dispensed with vocals, but there, it has to be said, the similarity ends, as this quite extraordinary genre-defying ensemble of talented musicians combined to produce a wall of thunderous sound that was energising, uplifting and just a bit bonkers. More symphony than songs, the set revolved around the seminal, and epic, “Pink Lady Lemonade”. Built around an extended hypnotic riff that teasingly edged towards accessibility, the set would then gallop forward again, before capitulating into a frenzied freak out. Thrillingly blending progressive, space and krautrock into a heady cocktail of quite magnificent noise, there were evident parallels with the musical eclecticism and philosophy of the extended Gong family, but if comparisons are at all helpful, then look no further than Hawkwind in the early seventies.
Higashi Hiroshi showcased the finest knob twiddling since Dik Mik fitted a ring modulator to his audio generator while Satoshima Nani’s incessant drumming brings to mind Terry Ollis at his most frenetic. Best of all, S/T strums his bass just like Lemmy used to, and there’s no higher praise than that. Make no mistake, however. This is not a band to look backwards, as evidenced by Kawabata Makoto’s colossal presence, looking as if he had stepped out of a Kurosawa film. He forced impossible sounds from his guitar, magnificently supported by cross-dressing Mitsuko Tabata (who, incidentally, undercut any thoughts they might take themselves too seriously with some impromptu podium dancing).
Without intended to traduce the form, as is often the case with “this sort of music”, that folk will watch in with studied concentration, while others come away quite happy having indulged in occasional bouts of rhythmic head nodding. There sometimes appears to be an almost perverse contradiction between the splendid cacophony on stage and the sedentary demeanour of its fans. Not so much this night, however, which must have pleased the band enormously. There were still those that stood in mute appreciation with the stillness of an Easter Island statue – and good luck to them - but in the mix was also a surprisingly youthful quota of spangle-eyed hand wavers and pixie footed dancers conspiring to defy the norm and exuberantly enjoy themselves. By close of play there was even the making of a minor mosh pit, albeit one where bumped shoulders and stomped feet were swiftly followed by abject apology.
It was a close of play that came all too soon, and while there is something quietly admirable about leaving the stage without fuss, and without any intention of coming back, this was one occasion I would have happily succumbed to one of those manufactured encores we have all grown used to.