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Acid Mothers Temple - Recurring Dream and Apocalypse of Darkness

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Artist: Acid Mothers Temple

Album: Recurring Dream and Apocalypse of Darkness

Label: Important

Review date: Jun. 12, 2008


Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. - "Eternal Incantation Or Perpetual Nightmare" (Recurring Dream and Apocalypse Of Darkness)


On paper, Acid Mothers Temple appear to be, in any of their numerous incarnations, a music nerd’s dream. A dauntingly prolific catalog filled with albums that wittily reference obscure psych-prog bands makes their music appear to pay tribute to essential and underappreciated artists. They’re a collective with an otherworldly quality about their live performance (at least in their “Melting Paraiso U.F.O." incarnation) and they’ve collaborated with Gong’s Daevid Allen and even farther left-field figures in the history of progressive psych rock. All of these things make them seem like a band that understands musical esotericism and spends as much time digging through crates of vinyl as their fans.

But anyone familiar with a fraction of AMT’s massive output knows that some of their idiosyncrasies double as weaknesses, and that their output doesn’t always live up to expectations. Their catalog is so gigantic that it tends to be spotty. The high bar that they set with referential song and album titles isn’t always reached. Starless and Bible Black Sabbath doesn’t sound like a hybrid between Ozzy’s formative years and mid-‘70s King Crimson, and the “Ziggy Sitar Dust Raga” doesn’t quite combine Bowie’s finest glam moments with Indian instrumentation. In their extended jam excursions, they sometimes skew too heavily towards pure aural punishment, sacrificing the extra-spatial feel of their best material.

Acid Mothers are at their best when they balance their chaotic tendencies with structure. This might be why some of their most popular and seminal releases feature cover songs (for instance, Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno’s Iao Chant From The Cosmic Inferno, which is an extended version of Steve Hillage’s “The Glorious Om Riff”, which is itself an exploratory reworking of the opening riff of Gong’s “Master Builder”) or performances of existing pieces (The Melting Paraiso U.F.O’s performance of Terry Riley’s classic piece of minimalist composition, “In C”). It also explains why some of the best moments of Kawabata Makoto and Co. are when they are restrained into song-length performances by their collaborators (as in their work with Daevid Allen as Acid Mothers Gong.) Their extended jam sessions, on the other hand, have a tendency to vacillate between excellent and unremarkable, within the same song, with some fascinating musical ideas surrounded by a whole lot of crushing repetitiveness.

On that score, Recurring Dream and Apocalypse of Darkness is already at a disadvantage. The disc is composed of two tracks, each exceeding a half hour in length. Each track, as with plenty of other AMT extended jams, has lots of interesting musical ideas thrown on top of one another. In fact, at some points, these songs showcase quite interesting facets of the collective’s musical exploration. Unfortunately, the lack of real coherence keeps them from being nearly as memorable as they otherwise might be.

“Eternal Incantation Or Perpetual Nightmare” begins as a meditative whistle that abruptly cranks into a blaring guitar drone. Soon the throb of a distorted bass begins to underpin an outer spacey chaos of wailing guitars and squiggly synths; flying saucer takeoffs that recall some of Hawkwind’s classic moments. About seven minutes in, another riff takes hold, and wah-wah’d solos abound.

Glossolaliac vocal ululations begin to emerge from beneath the repeating riff, and they're one of the most interesting elements of the song. It’s here that Acid Mothers are at their best, exploring strange cultish chants and sounds that don’t sound quite "right." But the vocals are abandoned almost as soon as they start, and the song returns to a chaotic jam with plenty of crunchy arpeggios and blaring solos, but not a whole lot to differentiate one five minute block from the next.

“Recurring Dream and Apocalypse of Darkness” begins with a churning Sabbath-y groan (like a slowed down version of the intro to “War Pigs”), surrounded by the rise and fall of spaced out electronic oscillations, and continues on in that fashion for longer than it remains interesting. The song ends with a tinny electronic buzz that eventually drops off into a sound like a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.

In some sense impressionistic, given that each song seems to be split into two parts that could roughly correspond to each half of each song title, the tracks on Recurring Dream and Apocalypse of Darkness highlight quite clearly both the strengths and weaknesses of AMT. If Kawabata Makoto and Co. had spent time exploring the extra-spatial elements that appear in the two tracks, controlling the rises and falls, and cutting out the filler, Recurring Dream could have been an excellent disc. Instead, it’s a decent one, one in which the recurrence of patterns tends to obfuscate the best part. There are good ways and bad ways that AMT is capable of making a listener zone out, and the long stretches of guitar-driven chaos on this disc can sometimes induce the latter. At best, it’s a great illustration of the AMT’s appreciation for the weirdest layers of space rock; at its worst, it can sound like an amped-up version of the introduction to a Hawkwind song in which the song itself never actually starts.



By Matthew A. Stern

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