Acid Mothers Temple/Phantom Family Halo – Mercury Lounge – May 1, 2012
Often I’ll use the word psychedelic to describe music as one flavor in a sonic stew, the sauce on the chicken wing, so to speak. But some bands are the listening equivalent of taking shots of straight hot sauce until mushroom clouds burst from your ears like cartoon characters. The double bill at Mercury Lounge last night, featuring Acid Mothers Temple and Phantom Family Halo was like straight shots of psychedelic, and with names like those, was there ever any doubt? The late-night vibe in the club was “cult classic,” the rock version of a midnight Rocky Horror showing or a Dungeons and Dragons all-nighter in your mom’s basement.
Phantom Family Halo kicked off things and almost immediately dove into a full sensory mind meld. With mottled, unfocused imagery flickering on a white sheet behind them, it was like looking through the band into another dimension. The visuals matched the music—otherwordly vocals that may have been caused by the whole band having the flu, scintillating guitars and intergalactic keyboards. Much of the material was off their recent When I Fall Out album, with plenty of improv-laden, instrumental stretches to release the songs from terra firma. This was dark, heavy stuff, occasionally bordering on metal bombast. These are the types of guys who occasionally drop down to a knee to turn knobs and dials to unleash the weird through the PA and the crowd ate it up, fully willing to follow the band through a wormhole. PHC is definitely a young band worth watching.
Japan’s Acid Mothers Temple, old-school psych favorites, closed the show in triumphant fashion. With an awesome, freaked-out hippie aesthetic with hair that seems to swallow reality itself, these guys needed no extra light show besides the mellow, static aqua blue lights. Each song started as a hypnotic drone, bits of melody appearing slowly, unfolding like a piece of epic poetry. The themes repeated with increasing velocity, new subtleties layered in until a gargantuan jam completely overwhelmed the room. The first piece exceeded 18 minutes. The second one, “Son of a Bitches Brew,” was about the same, a noise jam with zigzagging motifs developing a groove while the deep shit kept chugging along. It seemed the set could have gone on blissfully forever in this fashion, with the entranced audience ready to call in sick the next day if it came to that. But eventually, the spell was broken and reality set in, until the next shot of cayenne to the soul. —A. Stein