Thomas Merton teaches us, in the face of the nuclear desert as potential future, to wage war unceasingly and courageously against despair. Kikagaku Moyo fill the air with pregnant, dripping, liquid sound with the song “Silver Owl” from their third album, 2016’s House in the Tall Grass.
Listening is like flying regally over a crisp October landscape, air in one’s lungs. Think of that Walt Whitman epigram from Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems as a joyous, hearty psychedelic “yea” in reply to William Blake’s line about the “doors of perception.” “Don’t just unlock the doors,” says the psychedelic evangelist. “Tear them from their frames!” Ginsberg begins his poem in much the same spirit as Blake, evoking the power of vision. By this he means “the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night”: the god-like imaginative power behind dream-work and kosmos-creation. Just as Blake aligned himself with the angry prophet figure Rintrah, so too with Ginsberg, who aligns himself with figures like Muhammad. It’s such a psychedelic place, this world, this book written at the tip of the mind. It was from the Angel Gabriel, remember, that Muhammad claimed to have received the revelations that became the Koran. Ginsberg speaks of Blake appearing before him in a vision hallucinated while lying in bed after an orgasm. Ginsberg’s mother Naomi was hospitalized for mental illness. As biographer Barry Miles notes, this gave Ginsberg “an enormous empathy and tolerance for madness, neurosis, and psychosis.” One of my favorite moments in “Howl” is when Ginsberg refers to “kind king light of mind.” I’ve experienced that kind of high. Also the low he describes on the next line as “the drear light of Zoo.” Ginsberg mapped the emotional antipodes represented in the heroic deeds and misdeeds of the radicals and anarchistic free spirits of his generation. “Howl” is epic poetry set to the purpose of narrating the collective subject of universal liberation collision-coursing its way through the ultimate bender.
Topics appear laid out as if on a blanket at a swap meet. If it’s important, these posts will get to it. All in due time. There remain so many branching paths of possibility. And here I am performing real-time running commentary on it. My dog’s health is declining, the quality of her life worsening in minute increments of perception each day. Time appears like swirling digital mandalas anchored to objects recognizable among the observation deck where I select among sensory inputs. Consciousness slows down and dwells at a state of readiness, as if the planet were a spaceship I were captaining through a VR helmet. The noosphere, as Teilhard de Chardin referred to it, is itself a kind of helmet — a crown placed upon one’s temples. What would it mean to wear it well? The colliding voices are sometimes deafening. The world of the seen keeps reloading or reinstalling itself on my mainframe. Psychology is where the world inside the computer becomes cognizant of its surroundings. Or like the home movie that suddenly realizes it’s being watched. Around this time, the music comes on: the world births unto me Kikagaku Moyo’s House in the Tall Grass.
The album self-consciously hallucinates itself as the emanation of a stoned mind, a parallel cartoon fantasy landscape lit by moonlight. One can practice breathing in irregular counterpoint with its rhythms. The Tokyo-based band, I find myself wanting to say, channels a unique amalgam of psychedelic precursors — but I worry that my tone is too much that of a barker. Perhaps this is just that part of me — the barker part. My best self can run with it, whereas my other self — let’s just say, I sometimes so lack confidence in the quality of my utterances that I find myself needing to subtract from conversation, excuse myself from planned gatherings, and hang back somewhere outside the social event, tensing and loosening through wavelike motions muscles in my neck and shoulders. I can imagine much of this anxiety lifting in a country that provides its citizens a universal basic income. My higher-ed indentured servitude due to student debt has rendered work itself — labor in all its forms — the scourge of my existence. Better to blame work than to blame bad genes or bad chemistry. Or even worse, bad taste. All I know is, that song “Silver Owl” lifts me up. The finale of a bittersweet July, or the opening outward of an endless August. And the chaser for that is “Backlash” off the band’s Stone Garden
EP (look out, it’ll get ya.)
Stenciled citadels populate the sky on that same EP’s “In a Coil,” a track that sees the band swiss-cheesing its way to some as yet unexploited bit of land on Planet Krautrock.
Among contemporary acts, Kikagaku Moyo tops the list of those I most admire (i.e. those with whom I can conduct my worship). The current Tokyo psychedelic scene has also been blessed with the likes of Dhidalah, who for what it’s worth I find far less convincing. Yet Japanese retro culture remains uncannily precise in its renditions of the past. Look, too, for instance, to Guruguru Brain labelmates Minami Deutsch, who play the scene’s Neu! to Kikagaku Moyo’s Can.