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LIVE: Kikagaku Moyo - Deaf Institute, Manchester

After sitting down with the cult sensation that are Kikagaku Moyo a couple of years ago ahead of a headline performance at Leeds’ Karma Fest, we just had to catch them do their thing this time around after it was announced they would play their biggest Manchester show to date at The Deaf Institute.

Last year’s fantastic release House in the Tall Grass was a typically vibrant collection, marrying the mystique of stripped-back psych-folk with some enthralling gearshifts into heavier territory. The real thrill with this outfit is that you’re never exactly sure what you’re going to get.  The only certainty being that it is all but guaranteed to be special.

After the first of two support bands for the evening drops out at short notice it is up to local boy Irma Vep to provide the undercard alone. His brooding collage of angst-ridden blues packs a real punch as he entertains a venue already bursting at the seams. It’s a suitably expansive start to the evening.

Then after an impressively quick changeover the night’s headliners make it onto the stage. It’s an imposing start to the set as Kikagaku Moyo’s trademark sitar drifts its way into the ether of the Deaf Institute. There’s an infectious feel of anticipation throughout the room.

As we mentioned before, it’s the effortless shapeshifting this quintet find second nature that is what really captivates an audience – and House in the Tall Grass (a record they have huge confidence in based on this showing) is the undoubted focal point.

The beat-driven interlude of ‘Dune’ is as danceable as you like and has the bouncy front floor area at the Deaf Institute in full flow, while ‘Kogarashi’ is an immersive tour through 60s-style psychedelia – conjuring memories of the likes of Simon and Garfunkel and Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The use of the sitar in the world of psychedelia is certainly a path well-trodden, but the wistful finger-picking that most would associate with this medium is blown wide open by Kikagaku Moyo, adding more than enough meat to the bones during a krautrock style wig-out that Can would be proud of.

After that come voyages into toe-tapping blues-rock, Velvet Underground-style drones and face-melting Sabbath-esque metal.

After the band leave the stage the crowd are after an encore, but they’ve done they’re talking. Kikagaku Moyo are a band who offer unrivalled variety executed with discerning skill and mutual harmony. A show like no other.

Patrick Davies