Pikacyu*Makoto: Om Sweet Home

By , Sep 29 2011

Available on: Riot Season LP

To open a record with piercing vocals chanting “OM Marijana FU” blended into a dissonant alarm implies that that you expect a higher level of tolerance in your listener than most. Fortunately this grating overture is a truncated as it is jarring; less of a mission statement, more of an attention grabber. Indeed if neither the name of the group – a collaboration between Kawabata Makoto, leader of legendary psych-rock loons Acid Mothers Temple, and drummer Pikacyu –  nor the title of the album or its cover art fail to grab your attention then you’ve probably been watching way too much TV or something. It’s an exotic sprawling mass set – potentially lost – in cosmic territories, existing beyond any world of logic.

The record begins proper with the rolling ‘Birth Star’, where the whaling is replaced with smooth lullaby tones, and guitar maintaining a steady riff – what we’ve come to expect from Acid Mothers Temple, in short. As the track develops, the chanting returns, polyrhythmic vocals dancing on top of each other before more layers of voice are introduced, drowning out any identifiable conversation. Slowly, the modest guitars bulge into the foreground and the piece mutates into something much heavier before the vocals return, only this time more mangled than before; sped-up, twisted, martian-like. They establish the record as one produced, cut, chopped and pieced together – a record conceived in a studio rather than a rehearsal room.

Here is a record loaded with beguiling mysticism and frenetic endeavour; each artist pushing themselves in terms of the weird and the unexpected. It’s one of the things which makes OM Sweet Home so enjoyable: it’s a collaboration which works, where the two musicians have found common ground. At times it’s beguiling how they mould together, moving as one entity. With such energetic and unpredictable forces pulling against each other it’s conceivable that the duo could have resembled a two headed monster, each pulling against the other with their noisy, rambunctious styles. Instead their abilities to morph into different sounds not only allows them to co-exist on record but for the record to exist under several different guises. Unlike much of Pika’s previous material, her drumming frequently takes a back seat, reining in the sporadic breaks and crashing post-rock enthusiasm she’s renowned for. It resembles jazz more than, say, Lightning Bolt.

OM Sweet Home takes many twists and turns, with some interludes seemingly designed to break any notion that the record is finding a consistency in sound or style. For instance, the 25 second break of ‘Throwing the sound down the stairs’ does little but upset the rhythm as the record goes into the folk drenched abrasiveness of ‘OM Marijana FU Pt.2’. The track builds into a full on head banger and makes for an easy highpoint of psychedelia, finishing with atonal bliss. However it’s track ‘AWA no UTA’ which conquers all, full of with rich piano rolls and swirling guitars as Pika sings sweeter than she’s ever attempted before.

If there’s any one theme running through this album, something of a stretch perhaps, it would be that once a formula has been established on any one track the pair seek to subvert the convention which underwrites it: to take the vocals beyond that which is widely accepted, to draw the guitars into abrasive territory, to distort the sound. It’s a simple endeavour, but one that’s beautifully realised throughout.

Samuel Breen

3.5
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