KUUNATIC – a japanese description of the impulse to make art

The KUURANDIA EP from KUUNATIC starts with a slow-moving, swirling track called “Distant Song”. A pleasantly suspended note on a pleasantly distorted guitar offers a signal of intent. Then comes a throbbing-heart bass and we’re away. Superficially, this stuff is psych-rock, but it’s not far into this tune that you realize there’s something deeper at play here, and that this is a band that avoids the usual tripwires of genre.

The trio of Fumie C Kikuchi, Yuko Araki and Shoko Yoshida are generous in their share of band dynamic. There are no prima donnas here. Instead the band takes the simplest, most effective elements of their instruments – and then lay the sounds with varying degrees of complexity. In a sense – a far-reaching sense – this stuff is produced like soul music. Each sediment adds depth, density and texture – nothing new in that approach – but what’s different here is the lack of predictability within each layer. What should fight and struggle to fit actually compliments and offers an unusual sense of harmony. Comprised of hooks that form an overall tone it’s hard to know where a tune will land – but still, it pulls you along. Listen to a track and you won’t hear any particular element doing too much work. However, listen to that single element and you hear the entire track, the entire EP. It’s quite magical.

Three-part vocal tracks tessellate around harmonies, and the results are hypnotic. A track like “Spiral Halt” staggers in scale – this thing is a beast. A monster that mashes dub tones with traditional Japanese instruments, displays a level of confidence that shares the bands’ ambition.

The production values of the KUURANDIA EP echo with the influence of psych-rock as it was known along the best/west coast of the USA at the advent of amplification. There are gravel and grainy effects, reverb drenches the landscape, and the band clearly don’t care for signs that suggest mixing desks could blow if they continue at this trajectory. Effect-pedals and synth sounds pervert smooth process. This is a band who are capable of destroying ceilings in their promotion of volume. There’s an excitement at the possibilities of amplification. However, the threesome bring a wide range of approaches to the noise, and at the center of this EP is a reflective heart. There’s an unusual, often disquieting intelligence that offers alternative options. This stuff doesn’t simply strut and grab your attention for the sake of showing off. A weird kind of new tradition is offered up – and at times the process is hushed to a meditative tone.

The first release from the band that formed in Tokyo in 2016, culturally, this is an EP that borrows the most stimulating references from eastern and western hemispheres to produce a unique hybrid that is rough around the edges, pure in the heart, somehow timeless, and a slow-burning bit of independent brilliance. If the job of an artist it to ask how best to break restriction, KUUNATIC offer a good representation of that question.

Having recently played a bunch of dates around Japan, we caught up with KUUNATIC to make two demands of them:

Drink some tea, and then make a video in which you describe why you make art.

Here’s what they did:





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