More than most groups, Kuunatic live in their own separate world. The Tokyo trio are deeper into the alternative mythologies of science fiction than any band since, perhaps, Magma: their name, courtesy of a now-departed Finnish guitarist, is derived from the Finnish word for the moon, and their songs are set on the fictional planet of Kuurandia. The madness hinted at in the band’s name expresses itself as propulsive psychedelia, world music transmogrified into other-world music.
The album, produced by kindred spirit Tim DeWit from the New York experimental and Orientalist band Gang Gang Dance, is a step forward from their debut EP in 2017, an origin myth for their planetary eco-utopia. The opening “Dewbow” sees sacred bells ring at the dawn of a new era. “Sound of cedar”, they chant, “echo the mirror/crystal menou” (agates) “make you dazzle”. Fumie Kikuchi’s synths prickle like tonkori and her flute evokes a Shinto temple.
On the bifurcated “Desert Empress”, a new ruler rises accompanied by magical invocations. “Queendom, queendom, queendom,” runs the refrain; and in part two, more ambivalently, “poison of a prize/veiled in her shrine”. Here the synth line has a reedy quality; Yuko Araki’s drums and Shoko Yoshida’s bass have a post-punk implacability.
“Full Moon Spree” sees the planet prospering and its inhabitants celebrating under the full moon, to Kuurandian vocalese (with the sonority of Japanese) and an off-kilter harp riff on the taishogoto like a frenetic hurdy-gurdy; it segues into the harvest festival of “Titián”. Here the words are almost a haiku: “Meadows of jade grass/Fan out across the sublime hill/Paperbush blows scent”. Cool keyboard lines blow like breezes across skittering drums and cymbals.
But then there is threat to the idyll, in the form of a volcano thrusting up amid the mountains. On “Lava Naksh”, with its echoing verses in Hawaiian as a nod to the shield volcano Kīlauea, Kuunatic chant enigmatic mantras to drum triplets and scratchy synth scrawls and beaten sheets of metal to ward off a full eruption. Invaders fly chittering out of the lava like anime bats, and a battle is fought on “Raven’s War”. The battle is a slow rumble, with “unknown terrors catching the wind”. Through the use of magic our heroines prevail, “fateful triads banishing the fear,” and now, in the form of three pythons, they sing the triumphal “Para Bennyà”, before leading their people into the deep woods, chanting to a rattle of percussion, slowly decelerating......~