ZothiqueI really enjoyed the last self-titled and second album from Japanese nutters Zothique. It kind of came out of nowhere as has the follow up, unexpectedly arriving in the post all the way from the Far East. Zothique do have ties to the UK and some of the underground acts here, having collaborated with Throes and adding some textures to their recent album and having shared the stage with Dragged Into Sunlight when they played Japan. Musically though they are quite a different prospect from these acts playing a brew of psychedelic, stoner, sludge that is designed to twist the unwary listeners head round approximately 180 degrees and the proceed to tug it straight off.

Unlike the last album’s three long tracks this one has a bit more substance dividing things up into nine passages which all bind together to work as a constant whole. It’s all instrumental to start with on ‘Venus 1’ which unsurprisingly slowly but surely takes you up into space with long expansive riffs building up and billowing out like bong smoke as they gather form. After laying out plenty of fuzzy ballast and contorted sounds things suddenly burst into ‘The Tower Of The White Moth’ and everything goes manic, it’s like moving from dope to PCP. This has a real rocking, garage vibe about it and some lunatic edged vocals from Shusuke Shimonaka. The madness behind this and the sudden about turn reminds also a little of everyone’s favourite serial killing enthusiasts Church Of Misery. Occasionally underlying it all and very noticeable on ‘Hijra’ are some psychedelic fluttering guitar riffs sounding like they have escaped from an early Hawkwind album and there are even some dubby effects with some drum echo going on. Obviously Zothique do not play by any particular rules and constantly shape shift throughout the album and even during individual tracks. Smoking something other than normal tobacco to this album is likely to severely mush your head!

The title track gets into a bit more of a conventional doomy stoner beat with the central flare shuffling riff striding purposely off and down the street like a pimp in 70’s downtown Harlem. There’s a crazed feeling added to it all by both vocals and feedback and there’s even a bit of an Oriental sounding melody before its completely done leaving us feeling all dazed and confused. Once it’s twisted and turned several times the track offers its biggest surprise that of a punk sounding vocal delivery and a rhythm that really reminds me of Crass Fight Wars Not Wars; maybe not so surprising as they also referenced England’s finest anarchists on their last album too. It’s back to slow sludgy nirvana as ‘The Circular Ruins’ goes round like a serpent eating its own tail dragging you right into doom dementia and by now you will probably be as confused and out of your skull as you would be attempting to watch a Takashi Miike film without any subtitles. ‘Amyotrophy’ then proceeds to spasm into some fast and furious squat punk sort of lunacy invoking a short sharp fiery riot before ‘Nomadic’ ambiently has us floating in space along with what sounds like a traditional Japanese stringed instrument strumming along. ‘Valley Of Tears’ is the oddest bit, it sounds like a traditional march or waltz even and the band handle it in a style that wouldn’t be out of place by an act like The Bonzo Dog Do Dah Band or someone equally as eccentric. Finally it is down to Venus II to twist and turn towards the end of this rather unique and highly enjoyable album.

I can hardly believe that this is self-released and can’t understand why a label has not picked this band up although perhaps that is their own choice. The professionally packaged disc also has a superb bold and brash production on it making it sound all the more fantastic and I have been really shaking the speakers to it on repeated plays. Looking back, the last album scored a good 7.5 but the group have really expanded on things here and this definitely deserves an additional mark. Check it out and see if your head explodes!

(8.5/10 Pete Woods)