Kuurandia by Kuunatic

Release date: December 24, 2017
Label: Self-Released

Japanese psych has become something of a thing in recent years with nominal standard bearers Acid Mothers Temple and all their different offshoots leading the way. Perhaps more importantly has been the success of Kikagaku Moyo, who has taken the Japanese sound and turned it into a more palatable experience for Western audiences. Acid Mothers may represent the freakier end, but it’s the middle ground of Moyo which has enchanted people, be it in festivals such as Liverpool Psych Fest, or on his own forays on the gig circuit.

Joining those erstwhile spaceheads are now Kuunatic, who along with a bunch of other lesser known Japanese psychonauts, are aiming to replicate their success. Of course, that success may be limited to the underground for the time being (and if we’re being honest, the future too), but that’s by the by when it comes to psychedelia. It’s coat of many colours may pop it’s head into the mainstream now and again, but by its nature it remains an underground concern.

Kuunatic probably don’t give two hoots about whether success eludes them or not and are more interested in exploring their peculiar brand of kraut influenced psych doses in a heady atmosphere of traditional Japanese musical culture. Over the space of twenty minutes, they create music which completely displaces you from mundane reality to a surreal existence. Much like that scene in Lost In Translation where they run through the chaos of the arcade and slot machines, this transposing of noise for everyday sound, into a chiming melodic undertone of elevated beauty sets you inside a different kind of existence. The translation may not be quite so lost due to the universal nature of music, yet the alien feel seeps into your mind to confuse.

It’s a happy occasion and as ‘Distant Song’ drives its incessant little beat outwards, the toybox electronica makes weird sounds. Repetition is brought in through the vocals, with an almost sea sick quality to them. It’s an embracing of kraut but given an unusual make-over. For all it’s oddness though, there is still some semblance of normal structure about it. This is soon cast aside on ‘Spiral Halt’ which increasingly loses its way into a dub infused second half, full of tribal rhythms. That you don’t even recognise the point at which this happens is testament to their efforts at confusing your mind.

By the time you get to ‘Kuulanding’ the music has forged an interesting path into the traditional, as they imbue their music with elements of Japanese culture. The slight melodies and dramatic crescendos play out like a lost Japanese Noh play. The tropes can be recognised within Battle Of The Goddesses, a paean to spiritual times when ethereal brings were thought to direct our everyday. Here the Goddesses charge the weather into thunderous slabs, cutting through the music in intense waves of psychedelia. In the surface the music may retain some of its whimsical nature yet inside it is a roaring beast.

All too soon it’s over which is a shame as Kuunatic sound like they have so much more to offer. The brevity adds to the mystery though, and allows us to revisit again and again to briefly lose ourselves within their world. Maybe twenty minutes is enough, and any longer could find ourselves lost in a space. It’s an unusual and quite lovely experience.

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