Spotlights: Acid Mothers Temple/Mono

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Spotlights: Acid Mothers Temple/Mono

Maybe it's because we unfortunately fixate on differences, but nearly all the Japanese music that gets attention in the U.S. is the most extreme, challenging kind. We don't hear much about Japanese pop, but those plugged in to such volume-shredding acts as Merzbow, Zeni Geva, Melt Banana, and the Boredoms will bend your ears as surely as the music will leave them ringing.

This year, SXSW brings two similarly challenging Japanese acts: Acid Mothers Temple, who've garnered a reputation for their unpredictable bouillabaisse of musique concrete and Krautrock, and the little-known Mono, whose impressive debut Under the Pipal Tree is on John Zorn's Tzadik label and utilizes extreme volume to induce extreme hypnosis.

Acid Mothers Temple guitarist Kawabata Makoto graced a recent cover of high-minded British magazine The Wire, the only scruffy-faced longhair in recent memory to earn said distinction. Kawabata, whose fierce shredding tactics have earned him repute as a twisted Hendrix counterpart, emphasizes that rock is a universal language.

"We have absolutely no context or connection with the Japanese music scene," says Kawabata. "While AMT may be made up of Japanese residents, we don't see the point of referring to ourselves as a specifically 'Japanese' group. Rock was born in America and brought up in England, but now it doesn't belong to any one country."

Taka Goto of Mono says his group shares a similar international vision. "We're not close to [AMT, Boredoms, and Merzbow], but we want to play our music as much outside Japan as in Japan like these bands."

Kawabata, whose hippie-obsessed group's full name is Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O., has an eye on even bigger things. He claims AMT is an attempt to channel the cosmic sounds that he hears in his skull.

"By turning the sounds into something that other people can hear," says Kawabata, "I am giving something back to the music, or to the music's source, the cosmos. Perhaps if I can pick up ever clearer sounds and re-create them more perfectly, then one day I will be able to know a fragment of the universal principle."

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Kawabata Makoto, Taka Goto, Under the Pipal Tree, Tzadik, John Zorn

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