Acid Mothers Temple gets lost in translation

Acid Mothers Temple is not easy interpreted. The band has 19 variations on its name and lineup, and has released more than 70 albums. Through rich, improv-heavy psychedelia, the cryptic Japanese collective has created both a nightmare for record collectors and a helluva back story.

The seeds for Acid Mothers were sown during guitarist Kawabata Makoto’s childhood. Disillusioned with Japan’s popular music of the time, Makoto found aural pleasure in ’60s and ’70s hard rock imported from the West. Despite the language barrier, he was drawn to the instrumentation and discovered his own way to read between the lines. As he says, “the voice is just one of the instruments for the Japanese.”

From the beginning, Makoto heard music differently. To him, songs were “messages from a U.F.O.,” he says. By the time he picked up a guitar and started performing in local groups, he likened himself to a “radio tuner, playing these sounds from my cosmos with my hands.” Through the process of channeling, Makoto unearthed transcendental “pure tones” he has since been trying to transcribe.

He formed Acid Mothers Temple in 1995, adding experimental, European electro-acoustics and classical Indian harmonies to a foundation of American prog rock. With a full cast to flesh out Makoto’s aesthetic ambitions, AMT gained renown for manic live shows. Soon, the band multiplied with more personnel, spawning new incarnations for Makoto to embody. At one point, the swelling collective even lived in its own commune.  

Currently on tour, Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. is only one in a legion of projects. But you don’t have to wade through the lore to appreciate the actual melodies — buried though they may be under dense guitars, colossal percussion and the occasional synthesizer. The shaggy Makoto considers his work to be “more like impulses” than songs, and the primal pleasure of Acid Mothers Temple delivers in every language. “We just make people happy by playing our music. That’s all. Do we need more?”