Considering they formed as recently as 2012, Japanese psych-rockers Kikagaku Moyo have quite a stretch of releases behind them. Beginning with their self-titled album in 2013, they’ve since released another album and EP in 2014 and a collection of split singles with the likes of Moon Duo and Kinski Kawabata in 2015. Their latest album, House in the Tall Grass, caps off their career to this point perfectly; it’s another offering of exactly what they’ve always done, and further proof as to why they’re so good at it.
While 2014’s Forest of Lost Children was a direct album in style, with present instruments and heavier rock and folk influences, House in the Tall Grass falls back into line with their psychedelic style. The atmosphere of the album is fuzzy, and songs can drone on for as long as ten minutes—longer than Kodama on their previous album, but not quite as long-winded as the twenty seven minute recording Pond or sixteen minute Never Know, both from their Mammatus Clouds EP—with the songs often drifting into the distance. It does have its direct moments, with the guitar solo that closes the lead track Green Sugar bringing an otherwise understated, distant track into the present. Additionally, the eight minute Trad devotes its second half to a distinctly 70s rock style breakdown, whose high energy is very much at odds with the plodding first half.
Regardless of the elements they include, there’s never a moment where House in the Tall Grass doesn’t work; the only potentially difficult moment would be the album’s longest track, Silver Owl, which drones slowly for a complete seven minutes until it breaks into a heavier rock arrangement for the final three minutes, but the beautiful arrangement of the introduction and the sitar that appears throughout make even its slowest moments more enticing, especially as the vocals find their way into the mix.
The album’s true nature is best expressed by Melted Crystal; it’s the album’s simplest track, with simple percussion allowing plenty of room for guitars, bass and other little instruments and touches to take their chance in the spotlight. It may not be a direct album, but it’s something you could quite easily get lost in. It’s the kind of music that will easily take you on a journey, something that works as well in the background as it does when you give it your full attention, and the distinct level of artistry in each track is something to behold.
If you’re looking for something understated that works, using its minimalism to its advantage, then House in the Tall Grass is worth looking out for. Kikagaku Moyo are clearly brilliant at what they do, and are a strong unit emerging from one of the more interesting if not lower key niches of Japanese music. It’s clearly not a style that everyone will be able to dive straight into, but given time there’s a lot to appreciate in this, an album which many listeners may just unintentionally pass by.