Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno, ‘Doobie Wonderland’
This is what happens when love transcends apathy, content becomes form, the ephemeral now achieves eternity. This is what happens when time synthesizes perfectly with space, when the mind becomes body and the body a purely mental phenomenon. “This” — the word Bertrand Russell found most difficult to define logically. The very this-ness of Acid Mothers Temple is what keeps their sound triumphant, glorious and transcendent time after motherfucking time. In their manifold incarnations, these folks have been kicking around Japan as a musical collective that embodies the spirit of psychedelia better than a great many of their predecessors and successors. Immune to the jading tide of time and show-biz, this Temple has been worshipping their roots more fervently than ever, with a wide-eyed wonder that could make some listeners suspect they might just be talented teenagers who discovered Hendrix & co yesterday. They’re the perfect antidote for this plague of modern cynicism that prohibits all but the least self-conscious of us from enjoying a fun experience with complete childlike abandon.
Last year, their Important Records release Son of a Bitches Brew asserted their dedicated, wildly spontaneous adulation of Miles Davis and his many bastard children of funk and jazz seed. Here their maniacal, ritualistic approach dissects and reconstructs 1960s acid-rock just as well—drink deep of this delicious brew, dear listener, if you dare. It may seem like blasphemy, taking the ancient sounds of transgression, which have long since been kitschified by our commercial simulacra, and filtering them through carefree cartoonish enthusiasm. But rest assured, just a few seconds of wah-wah wanking and you’ll be dancing along with reckless indulgence, finally forgetting that we ever awoke from the silly dream of the sixties. “Do you remember?” they ask us in the opener “…Doobie Wonderland,” in explicit temporal contrast to Hendrix’s “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)”—but is this merely nostalgia for the futuristic idealism of a distant past? The longwinded loops that pound along until they expand in harmonic breadth and emotional intensity, the polyrhythmic orgy plowing incessantly through constant crescendos; all of this feels like necromancy, not nostalgia. Acid Mothers Temple are goddamn magicians, and we should all be freely offering our hearts and souls over to them at their psychedelic altar.
Before you’re even halfway through the sprawling, twenty-minute epic that opens the record, you’ll be hearing the gooey Moog oscillations as though they were incantations from Dionysian priestesses. As each groove proceeds from the next, song blends into subsequent song, lyrical singing blurs into the same indistinguishable gibberish, and the paradoxically carefree urgency makes this a journey you’ll immediately forget, but will lift your mood for weeks. American neophytes such as White Hills or Lumerians have been known to reach these heights of Hendrixian, krautrock-ish transcendence, but they never make it sound this easy and fun. Note how the frantic rhythms pounding along on “Planet Golden Love” gradually dissolves into a monotonous, frenzied murk; or how the campy jazz-guitar licks in “MJ Love 666” are never completely swallowed by the buzzing synth oscillations. There’s just so much going on in every jam, it’s difficult to separate discrete elements of the sound from the viscous, intoxicating whole. Rather than any distinct moments in which a particular guitar solo begins or ends, there’s a continuous perfect balance between spontaneous improvisation and rhythmic rigor. While egomaniacal rock guitarists once wrenched every searing note they could from their guitars in an effort to champion the ever-present now and free-thinking subject within it, Acid Mothers Temple always take that aesthetic freedom for granted, indeed as an assumed starting point. I’ll bet money that you won’t find a more perfect slab of psychedelia this year than the incantatory, hypnotic closing track “Shining O and Jupiter ∞” — here more than anywhere, the German word kosmische applies better than any pigeonhole available to English speakers.
Perhaps what allows the Mothers to sound so carefree is that, unlike Zappa’s Mothers or most other bands from classic ’60s/’70s psychedelia, the freedom in their sound doesn’t feel urgent on confrontational, as though there were no societal taboos against drugs or rock ‘n’ roll to fan the flames of a volatile rock star vanity. In fact, the blend of molten electric warbles and bouncy syncopation obliterates any sense of individual prestige we’ve grown accustomed to thanks to the assclownery of the many Morrisons, Morriseys, Pages, or Satrianis of the world who spend their lives swinging their pelvises in your face. These five songs pound along for far longer than would be logically reasonable, but since no guitar solo or drum pattern is ever immodest enough to stand out on its own, it’s less of a prog-rock wanking “look-how-long-we-can-go” stunt and more of a serene, happy-go-lucky “I-wonder-how-long-we-can-keep-going?” ritual.
Most neophyte and veteran bands alike find themselves looking forlornly over their shoulder, back to a past they can never reclaim or even simulate. One must wonder whether these Mothers have even retained any sense of time—maybe they think the ’70s were just a few minutes ago, but the past hour felt like weeks. For us, the dream may be over; for AMT, it’s just beginning.