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LIVE REPORT: Bo Ningen
Julian Marszalek , May 9th, 2014 12:15

Psychedelic privateer Julian Marszalek is melted by Bo Ningen as they explode in Heaven. Photo by Kenichi Iwasa

If it's not the apocalypse then it's damn good facsimile. As strobe lights blink with an ever-increasing intensity and lights strafe the venue, their beams slicing through the air like neon blades, there seems to be a moment of confusion among throng. Some people are standing wide-eyed and open mouthed as if they can't quite believe what's happening to them. Others are moving to the relentless pounding that's emanating from the stage, while a number at the front are reaching out their arms to embrace the chaos that's unfolding before them.

In the blinking of an eye, Bo Ningen singer and bassist Taigen Kawabe jumps from the stage into the audience below and in moments is carried aloft. Without losing the low-end throbs pumping from his fingers, the bassist cuts a phallic silhouette as the body of his instrument rests in his crotch and the neck thrusts out in a series of rhythmic movements. Behind him, on either side of the stage, are the flailing figures of guitarists Yuki Tsujii and Kohhei Matsuda as they tease, coax and thrash out a barrage of unholy sounds from their instruments to create a racket that's both fearsome and seductive in equal measure. This is Bo Ningen in full flight as they power through an epic 15-minute rendition of closing number 'Daikaisei Parts 2 And 3' and depending on your point of view, we're either in heaven or it could be hell. It may possibly be both.

Psychedelic has mutated into many differing strands and, as exemplified by the any number of festivals dedicated to the form that have sprung up around the world like the autumn crop from growing spores, shows absolutely no signs of abating. Indeed, it could be argued that its increasing popularity is a direct response to a world that's ever spiralling into economic uncertainty, political crisis and social instability. If the horrors of every day life are proving insurmountable then there has to be some kind of cultural safety valve and the alternatives offered via an altered state conscious and its appropriate soundtrack tick all the right boxes.

Bo Ningen manages to offer an alternative to the alternative. Not for them a psychedelia that's born from the blues structures of the last century; this is something else altogether. Theirs is a psychedelia that works with the endless possibilities afforded by volume and a twisting and mangling of sound that displays a new vernacular for what a guitar, a phalanx of pedals and endless imagination can achieve and if comparisons have to be drawn then it's fair to say that Bo Ningen are doing for psychedelia what The Birthday Party did for rock & roll.

But Bo Ningen doesn't trade in volume for volume's sake. While their first two full length releases Bo Ningen and Line The Wall found the band trying to harness their live power, their latest offering, III, is easily the band's most considered and textured – if no less powerful – release to date. Guitars intertwine to react against each other and to create a greater sense of dynamics while the songs have become more fleshed out and three dimensional. And so it proves tonight with opener 'Kaifuku' which finds the actions of Tsujii and Matsuda almost dancing around each as they weave a sonic tapestry that contains a series of vivid images. The difference in sound and content is immediately palpable and that Bo Ningen is taking a huge step up both in musical delivery and the size of the venues they're now playing to is manifestly evident.

Though much is made of the music they make, the band's visual aspect is worthy of scrutiny and consideration too. Kawabe is resplendent is what looks like a figure hugging dress while Tsujii is swathed in silk robes. Their flowing locks are cut with fringes and the pair possesses a delicious androgynous quality that adds to the attraction of the band. Matsuda takes a more relaxed sartorial attitude but his long flowing locks take on a life of their own as they cover his face from the first note to the last. Drummer Monchan Monna possesses the air of a samurai fully in control of his.

Throughout the gig, which includes a thoroughly punishing rendition of new single, 'DaDaDa', the band's frontline is utterly consumed by the music it's making. Kawabe frequently strikes almost delicately feminine poses whilst gurning with all the gusto of a speed freak as elsewhere Tsujii stalks around the stage like a caged panther that's ready to strike.

As the final notes of their music grind slowly and methodically to halt, guitars are swung around like ceremonial swords and the threat of a beheading becomes very real. Tsujii's is released and it comes crashing to the floor to howls of musical pain. They almost blow it by performing an encore but the end result is a journey way into the outer limits. Bo Ningen is out there – way out there, and you'd be a fool not to join them.

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