Friday, 11 October 2013

Acid Mothers ARE in Glasgow... (part 1)

There’s a crack through the landscape of my late teaching career. At one end, we have Acid Mothers Temple (the last band that I loved to distraction, at least for a few years). At the other, we have Forced Entertainment. They convinced me, through Bloody Mess, that the energy I had chased in music had migrated into theatre.

Acid Mothers Temple are back on Saturday. Last night I saw Forced Entertainment’s latest. I guess this now counts as nostalgia.

I have never really been that enthusiastic about AMT’s recordings. Part of this is age and equipment: I don’t have the high end stereo to blast out their psychedelic jams at a volume that allows the nuances of riff and feedback and distortion to play out in my living room. I also worry about the neighbours – something my teenage self would not have been too concerned about.

In fact, apart from the triple CD compilation, which includes a sixty minute version of the song that played live every time I saw them, was the only AMT release that I have adored: mainly because it compiled their various alliances and side-projects. I tend to find more joy in main-man Kawabata Motoko’s solo exercises. They fit in more with the minimal ambient noise that makes up my bedtime listening action.

But Acid Mothers Temple in concert… it’s a pleasure too Dionysian to resist. Although the basic template is consistent – they are a loud, rambling yet brutally focused outfit who pastiche 1970s’ progressive rock – the subtle line-up changes made each show different enough to make collecting the set crucial. Maybe they’d add a drummer, replace a vocalist: each change was announced with an additional phrase to the band’s name (possibly referring to an obscure Gnostic idea). But the slight tilt in direction was enough. AMT were finding new ground in an apparently featureless landscape.

I guess they satisfy the two extremes of my soul: the paradox at the heart of the band is the paradox of my own emotional confusion. On the one hand, they appear to be revivalists, harking back to a time when rock valued aggression as a tool to expanding the mind. They evoked the late hippy conflagration, when Hawkwind sketched out ceremonies of outer and inner space, just before musical competence soured into self-conscious displays of technical expertise. They drone, they wail, guitars all so masculine and relentless.

Yet they seem so fresh, as if each bludgeoning drama is being conjured accidentally, from a jazz spirit of improvisation.

Part of my soul is enchanted by the subtle interplay of very loud guitars, and the way they rediscover predictable strategies and cast them in passionate, even original, new directions. It is an erudite game of spectatorship, discerning the nuance of the old and refitting it as new.
The other part of me recognises them as the greatest dance band in the history of rock, a supple funkiness driving on the assault of noise. 

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