Acid Mothers Temple, newly rejuvenated with a fresh lineup and firing on all cylinders, brought their ever-shifting cosmic freak-out to The Earl .
The Earl, Atlanta, GA
Acid Mothers Temple, newly rejuvenated with a fresh lineup and firing on all cylinders, brought their ever-shifting cosmic freak-out to The Earl with an all-caps revue in tow, the name capitalizations of supporting acts CHEW and YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN offering some notion as to the decibel levels involved. Atlanta natives CHEW took the stage first, playing a cantakerous instrumental set overlooked by a screen that mixed lo-fi live footage with images of cult leaders and religious congregations in ecstasy as color levels and image stability warped and undulated. Drummer Sarah Wilson took up position front and center, leading the trio (Brett Reagan on guitar and synths, Brandon T. Pittman on bass) with a frantic style that leaned on cymbals and hi-hats to set the beat and relying on drums mostly for rapid bursts of fills. The group’s galloping psychedelic rock was at once spacey and pummeling, offering a glimpse into an alternate world in which Lemmy stayed in Hawkwind but everyone else left. At once snarling and euphoric, CHEW made an excellent impression and set the stage nicely for the acts to come.
Montreal crew YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN started setting up so quickly after CHEW wrapped up that the first band barely had time to get all of their gear off the stage before the sextet was already done tuning up and ready to play. Cutting a striking profile with their Noh-inspired face makeup and intense floor lights that cast their players in blown-out whites and dark shadow, YAMANTAKA edged gently into their strange blend of folk, metal and punk, opening with drawn-out vocal intonations and a buzzing crest of guitars that ruptured into an expert mix of quasi-spiritual chants and pure noise rock. As bandleader Alaska B held things down with protean drumming that ran through smooth grooves, spacious soundscapes and even blast beats, Ange Loft held center stage with hand drums and other percussive fillers as she swapped howling, passionate vocals with Joanna Delos Reyes. Delos Reyes also laid down thick riffs with bassist Brandon Lim, over which Hiroki Tanaka shredded squealing fills and runaway solos on a Dean Dime series that had all the screaming, note-bending intensity of the man who gave the guitar his name.
The band was on fine form for their entire set but crested in their closing stretch, particularly on an extended jam on penultimate number “One.” Loft and Delos Reyes slid into chanted, repetitive moans that would have been at home on a recent Swans record as synth lines and riffs built and built until Tanaka laid down a solo of pure acid as Alaska B rasped black metal hisses into a microphone while pummeling her kit. Every time the song seemed to hit its apex, the band pushed just a bit farther, and when the calamitous noise finally stopped the audience roared in appreciation.
In keeping with the unpretentious nature of the evening, the headliners took the stage without fanfare, calmly checking their instruments and mikes before Kawabata Makoto, without so much as a “good evening,” launched into a solo of shrieking feedback as his left hand skated up, down, over and under his fretboard as the rest of AMT joined in his chaos. Gradually, the band settled down into a recognizable song, in this case “Dark Star Blues,” with vocalist Jyonson Tsu’s hypnotic delivery guiding sections of the track as it wove in and out of explosive breakdowns. For nearly 20 minutes the band coursed through the elasticity of the song, tugging and stretching the bounds of the core riff like putty. The new members of the band (Tsu, bassist Wolf and drummer Satoshima Nani) sounded as if they’d always been in the group as they expertly wove around Makoto’s caustic leads.
Despite leading the band with his caterwauling solos and abrupt pockets of smoothness, Makoto sat off to the side of the stage, in a corner so poorly lit that any attempt to take photos or video of him looked like you’d pointed your phone at the bar. AMT co-founder Higashi Hiroshi occupied the most prominent position, twiddling knobs on his analog synth at the front of the stage and adding sheets of dense noise to the cacophony. The Earl’s cramped dimensions and excellent acoustics amplified the wall of noise but also kept elements distinct enough that Wolf’s bass always sounded present in the waves of feedback, and the antic but intuitive interplay of Wolf and Nani as both soloists and the bedrock to the group’s jams made a strong case for their ongoing employment as AMT’s rhythm section.
For all of the maelstrom of the band’s collective improvisation, it was remarkable how cogent the overall thrust of their playing was. As often as things descended into colliding solos, the band still made sure to anchor identifiable themes for songs like “Pink Lady Lemonade” (here introduced in its grooving “disco” variation before interpolating several other tracks into a mutant medley) and the haunting “Sycamore Trees.” There were even moments of supple beauty, such as Makoto introducing a track by taking a violin bow to his strings and grinding out a tense but nonetheless lilting sound that slowly blossomed into volcanic metal. The ease with which the band drew out songs past the half-hour mark without losing a sense of direction was awe-inspiring, a rare instance of a jam band making its live renditions feel shorter than their studio versions. By the time the group wrapped up with their standard, thunderous closer “Cometary Orbital Drive,” the crowd was exhausted with keeping up with Makoto’s soloing and the band’s equally dense sheets of sound. As Makoto departed, he hung his guitar from the rafters as it howled out its final distorted chord, sending the band off with one final deafening but elegant scream.