Psychedelia at its best is a kaleidoscopic delight that can transport fans to places deep within the imagination. Of course, often it proves little more than an excuse to grow your hair and indulge in interminable heavy guitar riffs or, at the opposite pole, excessive whimsy. Fortunately, while Kikagaku Moyo definitely fit the hirsute tendencies of the style, they also bring the most captivating facets of the genre. They are not averse to lengthy improvisations, as demonstrated on 2021’s ‘Deep Fried Grandeur’, a collaboration with Ryley Walker consisting of two 18-minute pieces. However, they are at their best with less sprawling work, exemplified by the song-filled ‘Masana Temples’ which was one of 2018’s top albums.

‘Kumoyo Island’ begins with two tracks that clock in around the six-minute mark and the songs of this length are generally the most fully realised tracks on the album. ‘Monaka’ takes its name from a type of Japanese wafer sweet and takes inspiration from traditional minyofolk style. It begins with glistening percussion chimes like night-time rain sparkling on street-lit pavements before seamlessly switching between sitar and funk guitar while displaying a rhythmic sensibility reminiscent of prime Can. ‘Dancing Blue’ heads out to the dancefloor with more of that chaka chaka guitar and exemplifies how one of the album’s best characteristics is the way sitar and guitars harmonise.

Of the other tracks of similar duration, ‘Meu Mar’ is a glorious Erasmo Carlos cover with lyrics translated from their original Portuguese to English and then to their Japanese. It boasts a genuinely pretty guitar line and vocals with a lullaby quality highlighting another endearing Kikagaku Moyo trait that their vocals are devoid of macho bluster. ‘Yayoi Iyayoi’ is a rare instance of the band singing in their native tongue but using archaic language taken from the poetry and nature books found in Tokyo’s second-hand shops. Its arresting shifts in mood with hints of hi-life guitar and a sense of organic growth create one of the album’s highlights.

In contrast, ‘Maison Silk Road’ defies my attempts at providing a neat categorisation by length. It is an atmospheric piece which commences with all elements in the background including the bustle of background voices and activity before a piano and sitar drone gain a slight prominence.

Clocking in at four minutes, ‘Cardboard Pile’ represents an intermediate stage and sounds like two different songs stitched together. An initial frenzy of guitars and drum freak out before giving way to guitar lines that could be a psychedelic ‘Jolene’, brass instruments and a woozy vocal melody.

All the shorter pieces have an element of offering engaging snippets rather than fully fledged songs. ‘Effe’ has brass instruments low in the mix, as if calling out for rescue, and bird song at the end. ‘Gomugomu’ is the most 60s sounding, with elements of backwards masking and could be taken from a Tropicalia compilation. With its rhythm of a bottling factory and flashes of Oriental bells, ‘Daydream Soda’ is more of a mood than a melodic piece. ‘Field of Tiger Lilies’ is a short rotating guitar track, ending in a brief drone. As psychedelia and dreams make for perfect bedfellows, ‘Nap Song’ is an appropriate title with its gentle guitar picking and vocals that could be calling from beyond, pianos tinkling, with gentle waves rippling against the sand.

In an era where bands go on forever and never split up, it’s impressive that Kikagaku Moyo have decided to go on an indefinite hiatus having achieved their mission as a band over the past ten years. With ‘Kumoyo Island’, they go out on a high with the album that comes close to matching the sublime ‘Masana Temples’.

Kikagaku Moyo: Kumoyo Island – Out 6th May 2022 (Guruguru Brain)

I was editor of the long-running fanzine, Plane Truth, and have subsequently written for a number of publications. While the zine was known for championing the most angular independent sounds, performing in recent years with a community samba percussion band helped to broaden my tastes so that in 2021 I am far more likely to be celebrating an eclectic mix of sounds and enthusing about Made Kuti, Anthony Joseph, Little Simz and the Soul Jazz Cuban compilations as well as Pom Poko and Richard Dawson.