Acid Mothers Temple are nearing the end of their annual autumnal attack on broad-minded European gigging venues and once again played the Trades in Hebden Bridge, host over the years to numerous Gong-related musicians, if not yet Gong themselves.
The ‘Mothers’ are a Japanese collective with around 20 years history behind them, and Daevid Allen collaborated extensively with their guitarist and leader Kawabata Makoto in the Noughties (including the album ‘Acid Motherhood’ which went out under the Gong name in 2003.) Their style is an all-pervasive assault on the senses with an unbelievably loud and dense sound, smoke machines and a visual presence which is unparalleled – for starters you’re unlikely to see quite as much hair on one stage!
Whilst in particular guitarist Makoto and high-octane drummer Satoshima Nani flail around like whirling dervishes, frontman Higashi Hiroshi, an extraordinarily striking figure with long white hair and beard, maintains a zen-like presence up front as he peddles sonic effects including a state of the art theremin .
The band are renowned for their wigged out appropriations of iconic musical anthems both psychedelic and beyond, and I remember when I saw them for the first time in 2015 spending the first 20 minutes of the gig with my jaw dropping to the floor as they performed a track which I assume was ‘Son of a Bitches Brew’. I wasn’t entirely sure I liked it, but it was clear enough I’d never heard anything quite like it before.
Tonight as they launched into their first track, I was delighted to realise that it was Black Sabbath’s ‘The Wizard’, here treated with cacophonous layer upon layer of sound as a backdrop, and punctuated with gusto by Hiroshi on harmonica.
Gong’s ‘Flying Teacup’ riff followed, an extended workout around a single bass-line, and later we had the Om Riff sandwiched in between renderings of long-time Acid Mothers’ centrepiece ‘Pink Lady Lemonade’.
I couldn’t tell you the couple of tracks beyond this, but to be honest, that helped, as without a recognisable theme to hook into, I succumbed to the frenzied trance most of the rest of the audience had been wound up into. The sound is messy, high-energy and all-encompassing – all musicians, particularly lead guitar, the brilliant bass of ‘S/T aka Wolf’ and drums rattling along at breakneck speed, but even this, (with additional layers provided by second guitarist Mitsuko Tabata and effects) is further backed up by sheets of sound from backing tapes. It’s an astonishing spectacle. I think the crowd were too stunned to holler for an encore, most repairing to outside for a recupatory fag as the band quietly packed up, shifted a few T-shirts, and were waved off at the door as they made tracks for their next gig north of the border.