Review of Kikagaku Moyo – Mammatus Clouds on Cardinal Fuzz (CFUL023)

Kikagaku Moyo
Kikagaku Moyo were formed in Tokyo in Summer 2012 by Go Kurosawa and Tomo Katsurada. In 2014 Kikagaku Moyo played what many declared the best live set at Austin Psych Fest. With releases on cult US labels Beyond, Beyond is Beyond, Captcha Records, Burger Records and Sky Lantern Records, Kikagaku Moyo have become one of the most talked about bands of 2014 with all their releases selling out as word of mouth begins to spread on this new cult Japanese band. Mammatus Clouds was previously available as a cassette only edition on Sky Lantern Records. It is now available on Cardinal Fuzz but is selling fast. The 350 limited press black vinyl edition has sold out; the Captcha Records version pre-sale edition has also sold out. However the black / gold 120 limited CD version is still available from Cardinal Fuzz online shop
It’s easy to see why this band is so popular. Mammatus Clouds has a great vibe, in large part to the improvised nature which really allows themes to be explored and developed. There are some really good drone qualities and great use of layering to create different moods from ambient chilled vibes to emerging grooves. At times there is a meditative quality, a beauty in the music often set against a contrasting tension which makes this an engrossing and mesmerising release.
Pond This song is 27 minutes long and comprises side A of the vinyl release. This really allows for the improvisation and development of different themes and ideas. The song opens with strummed sitar against a background drone which is almost a feedback type of sound. The song builds gradually, creating a groove which develops with percussion creating a meditative / mesmeric feel. The groove fades to the drone which is accompanied by sitar creating more of an an edgy feel. This fades too, returning to the drone from which percussion and sitar emerge creating a chilled groove which evolves really well. This has meditative qualities too but also builds tension gradually. This tension is released to some really nice chilled sitar playing to round the song off.
Never Known This song is shorter than Pond at nearly 17 minutes long. It’s got a great chilled vibe, mainly provided by the sitar and accompanying ambient sounds. There is a suggestion at about the 7 minute mark that there might be a change of mood and there is, but it is only subtle. There’s also a suggestion of a conversation in the background, one of those where you can’t quite make out the voices. It has meditative qualities at this point but does very gradually introduce a tension against the sitar. These voices do start to get louder, and there’s a hint of the introduction of percussion but this is very short lived although returns towards the end of the song.
There is No Other Place (International Harvester) is then a really good contrast, opening with the suggestion of a drone but instead a driving beat emerges followed by vocals which have a kind of ethereal quality to them but also create a tension which is added to by feedback sounds which emerge to round out the song.