Review: Pikacyu*Makoto – OM Sweet Home: We Are Shining Stars From Darkside

Makoto Kawabata and Pikacyu’s collaborative meeting point is some sort of astral playground: drums tumble and roll around phased guitar psychedelics, while vocals yelp and overlap on all sides. For an album comprised of just two players, things can get very busy, and the listener isn’t expected to keep up so much as just accept that Om Sweet Home is often floating in anti-gravity, with ideas permitted to spiral off on their own accord without sense of stability to rein them in again.

After the rumbling low-fi mantra of “Om Marijana FU”, “Birth Star” sets the album into motion. What follows is the album’s strongest five minutes – riffs are kept steady and repetitive, mutating but consistently kept on theme, while drums keep a fluid (but measured and tangible) beat going beneath. Pikacyu howls freely at some points and sings sweet melodies at others, veering in and out of synchronisation with her multiple vocal overdubs. But it’s on her cry of “let’s go!” that the track breaks into prolonged – perhaps parodic – psychedelic indulgence. Drums crank up to double time, and “Birth Star” becomes a hyperactive mesh of pitch-warped voices and extended guitar soloing. Song structure dissolves, and the track identity seems to go with it.

This is my key criticism of OM Sweet Home. The album sounds caught between intentions – part of it wishes to surround the listener in free, jammed-out cosmos, while the other wants to gradually penetrate and make emotive impact via locked-in “hooks”. It’s when both of these are in operation simultaneously (or one right after the other) that the album sounds most compromised. Riffs become clichéd and unenlightening, while Pikacyu’s vocals often seem feeble in trying to etch in recurrent rhythms over the track’s most chaotic moments (particularly during “Wild Rise”).

But there are individual moments where the album makes a more assertive step into either the “free” or the “stable”. On one end of the spectrum, the two minutes of “Pigamelan-Magamelan” hops and dances as a child-like version of Ruins, stuttering along as rhythms and notes are picked up and abruptly dropped again. And on the other, there’s “The Ginger Chai”: sedated drum groove, addictive guitar loop, and the word “chai” sung over and over again. It’s during these instants that the album glimmers with squandered potential. Had it fully immersed itself in either unhinged psychedelic bedlam or meditative repetition – rather than darting uncomfortably between the two – OM Sweet Home could have been pretty special.