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Mani Neumeier & Kawabata Makoto - Samurai Blues

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Artist: Mani Neumeier & Kawabata Makoto

Album: Samurai Blues

Label: Bureau B

Review date: Apr. 8, 2011

It’s easy to feel jaded, or at least overwhelmed, by the sheer volume of Acid Mothers Temple-related product that comes out every year, and tempting to look at the already sagging shelf and just say enough. The problem is, by doing so you might miss out on something pretty cool, like this record. It doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t — basically this is a day’s worth of free-form acid rock jams — but it’s pretty good for what it is.

The line-up is quite basic. Mani Neumeier -- of Krautrock legends Guru Guru and a thousand sessions with the likes of Irène Schweizer, Damo Suzuki, and Harmonia -- mans the drums, while Acid Mother (and self-proclaimed Speed Guru) Kawabata Makoto plays electric guitar. But things are not as minimal as they seem. Either Kawabata has overdubbed two distinct guitar voices onto each track or he’s developed his capacity for keeping dual tonal streams going simultaneously to the point where he could become an air traffic controller if he ever tires of playing music. But he doesn’t sound like he’s sagging here, and neither does Neumeier, who just turned 70. The German practices unabashed maximalism behind the kit, coloring the music with bells, shakers and cymbals at the same time that he ensures its unstoppable kinesis with a fleetly played, precisely deployed drum barrage. He doesn’t let his allegiance to psychedelia turn into an excuse for sloppiness; his solo excursions and surging accompaniment might get busy, but it’s never cluttered.

The two men alternate manageably sized jams with a couple of longer excursions. The shorter tracks tend to be full-on blasts of skronk, bracing as change-ups from the longer pieces but one-dimensional on their own. It’s only when the duo stretch out that they find their forte — patient, circuitous development that builds to an ecstatic climax. “Spinning Contrasts,” which features Kawabata bowing his guitar so that it sounds like a cross between a violin and a sarangi, starts out lean and follows a raga-like structure of multiple surges. “Mushi,” on the other hand, melds jaunty hand percussion, spacy slide guitar, and stuttering clean-toned licks into a long cosmic jig, then settles into brittle, open-ended funk. I guess it goes to show that after 40-odd years, acid rock is still all about the trip.

By Bill Meyer

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