Delicious Psych Folk
The members of Japanese quintet Kikagaku Moyo are relative newcomers to the folk music scene. In fact their debut eponymous album was released a mere three years ago. However, in their short time active Kikagaku Moyo have developed an idiosyncratic sound that decisively pulls from a variety of different musical styles. The five-piece outfit perhaps most notably draws influence from the psychedelic rock tradition of the ‘60s and ‘70s. They incorporate extended improvised solos, sitar instrumentation, reverb-affected textures and a healthy dosage of overdrive. Yet at the same time, Kikagaku Moyo also manage to maintain a modern folk sound, lush with wispy vocals, static chord progressions, acoustic fingerpicking and lo-fi ambience.
House in the Tall Grass incorporates the same deliciously eclectic, genre-bending approach employed in Kikagaku Moyo’s earlier works. The album is a clear throwback to 1960s psychedelia. The plodding bassline and blaring wah-wah powered guitar solo of the opening track “Green Sugar” are reminiscent of something heard on an early Cream album (even the faint hum of static and abrupt fade-out are characteristic of ‘60s rock ‘n’ roll). “Dune” offers a mesmerizingly trippy blend of instrumental textures. “Trad” launches into a four-minute jam outro that captures an energy similar to that of a colorful and drawn-out Grateful Dead solo. And throughout the entirety of the album Ryu Kurosawa’s sitar assertively rings, further reinforcing these unabashedly psychedelic themes.
Along with its clear allusions to psych folk, House in the Tall Grass also incorporates certain elements that are very modern in feel. The gentle fingerpicked harmonies and delicately thin vocals of “Kogarashi” and “Cardigan Style” evoke contemporary folk artists such as Junip or Iron & Wine. “Melted Crystal” and “Fata Morgana” embrace an ambient, minimalist approach as they function more as interludes, separating the blaring guitar solos featured on some of the album’s more abrasive tracks.
Kikagaku Moyo have produced a truly absorbing – and worthwhile – listening experience. House in the Tall Grass manages to capture a sound that is simultaneously vintage and fresh. It is a compelling work of psychedelic folk that should appeal to lovers of classic rock, contemporary folk and many of those in between.