Whether one starts here or elsewhere, it’s a trip well worth taking.
Few bands’ discographies are as daunting as that of Acid Mothers Temple. Since their formation in 1995, the cult Japanese “soul collective” have released well over 100 albums under a dizzying array of monikers, all in the same basic wheelhouse of face-melting, brain-engorging psychedelic rock. It goes without saying that such a sprawling body of work presents a challenge for all but the most adventurous of newcomers. But with their new reissue of the group’s 1997 debut album, Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O., record label Black Editions offers one very pragmatic solution: simply start at the beginning.
In its reissued form, Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. is more accessible than ever: not only available for the first time on streaming services, but also on vinyl, a medium for which its lo-fi sound and ‘60s-inspired cover art feel tailor-made. Perhaps most importantly, the album is now sequenced in a much more listener-friendly way. Where the original 1997 CD release presented all 53 minutes in one interrupted track, Black Editions wisely splits it into four more digestible tracks corresponding with the vinyl edition’s sides.
If this seems too much like a concession to mainstream tastes, never fear—Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. can still be a tough pill to swallow. Opening track “Acid Mothers Prayer/Speed Guru” is 30 seconds of dissonant violin and chanting followed by 18 minutes of a pulverizing, pulsating groove, with Hajime Koizumi’s frantic drums and Keizo Suhara’s overdriven bass vying for dominance over keyboardist Cotton Casino’s keening, Yoko Ono-esque vocals. The following track, “From the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. I/The Top Head Pixies/Zen Feedbacker/Mach D is Bon-A-Roo/Coloradoughnut/From the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. II,” opens with what sounds like an electrified didgeridoo before giving way to reverb-laden spoken-word recitations, acid-folk acoustic guitar strumming and Zappa-esque free-jazz skronk. Closing track “Satori LSD/Hawaiian Brownie/Acid Mothers for All!” is mixed with bass and drums in the red and Makoto Kawabata’s howling guitar pushed to the margins; the cacophony finally fades into another discordant violin interlude, followed by a full two minutes (I counted) of piercing electronic noise.
Yet if Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. isn’t necessarily the gentlest introduction to the group’s work, it’s also by no means an uncharacteristic one. The album’s centerpiece is its third track, which begins with Kawabata’s guitar-mangling “Amphetamine A Go Go” and then, after a shuddering feedback-drenched climax, switches gears into one of the first recordings of the group’s signature song, the blissed-out “Pink Lady Lemonade.” These two extremes are the Acid Mothers in a nutshell: intense, caustic noise paired with equally intense, cosmic beauty. And while this “Pink Lady Lemonade” may not be the best of the many versions the group has recorded over the years, its presence demonstrates that even in their earliest years, the Acid Mothers were capable of transcendence as well as transgression.
Of course, the best entry point into the world of Acid Mothers Temple will always be their live show, which remains the only concert I’ve ever attended that made me feel—without chemical aid!—like I was physically floating above the ground. But there are also plenty of worse ways to broach their intimidating catalogue than with their first official studio album. Like many debuts, Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. can be crude and rough around the edges, but it unmistakably contains the seeds of what makes them one of the most essential psychedelic groups of the last 50 years. As Black Editions continues to reissue the band’s back catalogue, we’ll doubtless have plenty of other opportunities to watch these seeds come into bloom. But whether one starts here or elsewhere, it’s a trip well worth taking.