There was a time, not so long ago, when Japanese bands would imitate Western groups to the point where they were mere facsimiles. A change seems to have occurred in that nations consciousness with a new generation of bands asserting their culture and identity. Perhaps the most inventive of these groups are Tokyo’s progressive rock trio Kuunatic and in the true spirit of that genre they are exploring the boundaries of music and pushing prog towards the avant garde.
For those who like to totally immerse and lose themselves in music Kuunatic are the perfect band. Kind of like a musical version of Dungeons and Dragons they’ve created a whole alternative reality into which they draw the listener. Daubed with tribal markings the band materialise like the witches from Macbeth and open their set with new track ‘Dewbow’. Hallucinogenic without hallucinogens there’s a definite ghostlike, other-worldly quality to their sound. ‘Roho Ulio Toweka’ follows (from their split 7” with Taiwanese fuzz rockers Crocodelia) and replicates the sound of the koto which segues into tribal chanting before giving way to a dub reggae workout…and all in the same song! It sounds like a crazy combination but Kuunatic’s genius lies in bringing these disparate elements together and making a cohesive whole. Imagine Yoko Ono fronting Hawkwind during their Space Ritual era and you’ll have something approaching Kuunatic.
In the live environment the band become infinitely heavier as ‘Lava Naksh’ captures the enormity of nature in duplicating an electrical storm as drummer Yuko attacks her kit with gusto and bassist Shuko pulls impossible sounds from her bass while Yuki plays keyboards in a fashion not dissimilar to Rick Wakeman. All three share vocal duties and, with three very different voices, either shimmer with an ethereal beauty or are a banshee squeal. ‘Distant Song’ and ‘Desert Empress’ add some sleigh bells and flute to proceedings and these three sorceresses seem to have cast a spell as they hold the audience in rapt enchantment. ‘Battle of Goddesses’ has a bass rumble that could loosen fillings and features some nice vocal interplay and an over exuberant keyboard solo.
As most prog rock aficionados will know the best bands have a way of almost warping the fabric of time so even the most complex, lengthy song passes in the blink of an eye. Kuunatic have that ability and their hour set is over too soon but not before ‘Kuulanding’ rounds off a near perfect set and drags us deeper into their world. Come in and stay a while…
Reviewed by Peter Dennis.
- Roho Ulio Toweka
- Lava Naksh
- Distant Song
- Desert Empress
- Battle of Goddesses