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2006 : VOLUME 10

REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


KBB - Live 2004
KBB - Live 2004
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:CD
Record Label:Poseidon Records
Musea Records
Catalogue #:PRF-025
FGBG 4598.AR
Year of Release:2005
Time:56:42
Info:KBB
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Discontinuous Spiral (8:45), Inner Flames (11:55), [Shironiji] (13:01), I Am Not Here (10:51), [Horobi No Kawa] (6:47), [Nessa No Kioku] (10:39), [Hatenaki Shoudou] (9:34)

KBB have previously featured in the DPRP reviews pages and on both occasions received the recommended tag, so if you haven't checked out this excellent band before, then shame on you. As the title tells us this is a live album from 2004 - 19 & 20 November to be exact and recorded at the Silver Elephant in Tokyo. The line-up remains the same as appears on their Four Corner's Sky release from the previous year, along with two tracks from Lost And Found and one new piece.

Live 2004 kicks off with the opening tune from Four Corner's Sky and the excellent Discontinuous Spiral (as noted by me in the 2005 Poll). This lively, oddly metered, but foot tappingly friendly offering immediately introduces Akishisa Tsuboy, with his infectious and wonderfully melodic violin. Toshimitsu Takahashi's keyboards not only offer a firm foundation for Tsuboy, but his synth work nicely intertwines with the violin, offering both counterpoint and harmony. Finally the rhythm section are suitably impressive and really make this track cook.

Now I've read a number of reviews about KBB's material and common are the jazz/rock/fusion references, however although this may well be the case I would prefer to regard this as intricate instrumental progressive rock. The label jazz/rock/fusion may well put a number of readers off and this would be a great shame. This really is music that has its footholds firmly implanted in the progressive camp as we can hear clearly in the opening tune and again with Inner Flames. A much darker piece than its predecessor with Hammond-like organ, a driving rhythm and craftily punctuated by Tsuboy's violin. Much of this particular track reminded of the more intense moments from Ryo Okumoto's excellent Coming Through.

In complete contrast to the two openers [Shironiji] is a beautiful instrumental "ballad" beginning with catchy piano motif and a brief bass solo from Dani. Tsuboy's violin melodies slowly wend their way into the track, drifting effortlessly from the speakers. As the longest track from the album there are changes within the dynamics, but the track remains nicely restrained through the atmospheric bridge section and the unaccompanied violin break. It is only at the eight and half minute mark that [Shironiji] moves into full flow. The music becomes somewhat darker here, befitting the melancholic nature of the piece.

I Am Not Here has a rather long, discordant / textured intro and some three minutes or so elapse before the piece moves into a full band arrangement - and even then the overall nature is somewhat straining to the ears. The most difficult composition on the album to get into - and one that I tend to skip past. The release comes in the form of the simple but engaging [Horobi No Kawa]. The opening solo section is taken up by Dani, with rippling piano and a light violin accompaniment. Again the track builds up intensity, but never loses site of the melody. Delightful - well worth the admission fee.

The momentum is picked up in [Nessa No Kioku] - Shirou Sugano supplies the busy drumming with a chunky bass part from Dani. All of this lays a firm foundation for more of Tsuboy's creative violin work, this time with a distinct Eastern vibe - I have to admit I am running out of words to express my appreciation of this guy's playing. Once again the synth work of Takahashi blends well in the harmony sections and both his lead work and jazzy piano sections are a great credit to the music - and notably here on [Nessa No Kioku].

The closing track offers another chance for Takahashi to shine as he dominates much of this final piece - Hammond(y) organ, and whizzy analogue synth lead sounds. Tsuboy takes on the middle solo - the track concluding with some excellent dialogue between the keys and violin.

What I particularly like about KBB, and in particular Akishisa Tsuboy, is the melodic structuring of the pieces. Considering the standard of musicianship the band could be forgiven for drifting off into a more freeform or improvisational areas, but in true prog fashion melody is never forsaken and recurring themes drift in and out of the music.

So with Live 2004 KBB manage to retain their unbroken DPRP recommended record and I can only hark back to my opening remarks - if you haven't checked out this fine instrumental band then I think you are really missing out on something special.

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

BOB MULVEY



Quikion - Ramadan
Quikion - Ramadan
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:CD
Record Label:Poseidon Records
Musea Records
Catalogue #:PRF-018
GA 8676.AR
Year of Release:2004
Time:46:20
Info:Quikion
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Moon and A Bride (3:06), Ramadan (6:05), The Cracked Harmonium of Chotabaru (2:34), Die Ballade Von Der Höllen-Lili (2:56), Guessing Song (3:20), Cha-Ri-Ne (5:05), Spellbound (5:07), Sirba D'Accordéon (4:04), The Cuckoo (3:25), Concertina Blues (3:03), Heaven Knows (5:14), Kondratiev Song (2:14)

I might, if it were my decision (and of course it isn’t), rename this band “Quirkion” because, if nothing else, there’s a definite quirky charm to Ramadan, Quikion’s 2004 sophomore release (on Poseidon/Gazul Records). Quirkiness is hardly a terrible attribute for rock bands or even individual personalities. To varying degrees, you’d have to assign the tag “quirky” to The Talking Heads and David Byrne, Jethro Tull, XTC and Andy Partridge, Björk, Gentle Giant, David Bowie, and The Beatles at their most whimsically psychedelic. Personally, I often find quirky music attractive, if it is smartly delivered with charisma and idiosyncratic flair. And I guess I’ve just described fittingly what makes Quikion appealing, so let me move forward by simply noting that there is indeed “something else” to Ramadan.

Quikion is a trio featuring Totoki Yukiko, Oguma Eiji, and Sasaki Emi. All are multi-instrumentalists and Ms Yukiko is the lead singer. I don’t know too much else about the band members because the CD insert is written primarily in Japanese, which I sadly can’t read. I’d be interested to know the training these three musicians have had because their ability is noteworthy. The playing is decidedly clean and graceful throughout Ramadan.

When I first received the CD for review, I was intrigued by the list of instruments employed on Ramadan. The recording showcases the concertina (part of the accordion family), harmonium (a reed organ), bouzouki (a Greek mandolin), tampura, accordion, glockenspiel (a type of tuned percussion, à la Tull’s Skating Away On The Thin Ice of a New Day,), psaltery (related to the many-stringed zither), and pianica, along with the more conventional guitar, percussion, and vocal. The majority of these uncommon instruments (at least uncommon on Western pop and rock-and-roll recordings) derives from the minstrel legacy of the European corridor that begins roughly in Greece and Albania and reaches northward up through the Ukraine and perhaps into the Baltic nations, and includes to the east and west portions of the former Ottoman Empire. (Maybe this area can be grossly described as the home of Orthodox Christianity, not ignoring the pockets of Judaism and Islam within it.)

Ramadan, unsurprisingly in hindsight but unexpectedly upon first listen, is absolutely beholden to the folk music and motifs of that area of the world prior to industrialization, and the listener is treated to sounds that might be described here as Yiddish, there as Slavonic, with traces of Arabic syncopation, non-Western scalar modulation, and even the Celtic reel and sea shanty! And the charm that I cite above comes somewhat from the reversal of my original, ill-conceived presupposition about the album. I expected Ramadan to feature Japanese song structures and conventions featuring European, even Medieval instrumentation. Instead, the music is wholly Western although the lyrics are sung in Japanese. It’s a bizarre combination but it’s really pretty sweet.

I don’t want to play the spoiler here so I’ll just recommend a few tracks and let any prospective listeners find out the deeper joys of Ramadan without my sales pitch.

The Cracked Harmonium of Chotabaru features that instrument prominently. It’s a delightful track. The harmonium weaves and winds throughout the song, with a great panoply of effects and sounds surfing over the rollicking wave. It’s strange and eerie but it never forsakes a pop sensibility, reminding me of Eels and XTC.

Guessing Song is gorgeous, featuring a simple but poignant tandem of acoustic guitar and shakers over which Ms Yukiko lays a shimmering vocal. The accordion solo is brilliant, very succinct and lucid, and I loved the sly percussion throughout the song. At times, Ramadan does recall Jimmy Page and Robert Plant’s experimentation with the same ethnic motifs, most obviously on the Unledded album.

The Cuckoo is probably the most “Japanese-sounding” tune on Ramadan, and by that I only mean that it contains what I would regard as stereotypical Japanese sounds, such as you might here on Formentara Lady by King Crimson. The vocal is lovely and the staggered guitar in the lively break is reminiscent of Robert Fripp on Islands.

The remaining tracks are all worthwhile explorations of weird signatures, troubadour trickery, and keen musicality. Ultimately, I have to give Ramadan a seven-and-a-half. It suffers slightly from repetitiveness and sometimes I thought Totoki Yukiko’s vocal phrasing was too cluttered, but these are both very minor complaints, neither of which detracts from the lustre of the tunes. Ramadan is chock full of irregular beats, strange combinations of instruments, odd but interesting sound effects, and very polished, very accomplished, very energetic performances. I preferred the pure instrumentals over the songs with lyrics but Ms Yukiko’s voice is always pretty. I hardly expected to hear waltz time and Yiddish dirges on Ramadan, and I’m grateful for the surprise!

This is first-class, foot-tapping World music, and although I certainly won’t label Ramadan as “progressive rock,” I’d recommend it strongly to any prog fan who loves peculiar instrumentation, all-acoustic efforts, and/or Japanese pop music in general. It’s certainly “progressive,” if only in the Gentle Giantish-manner of reformulating archaic sonic textures to create a contemporary sound. And if you’re merely a music fan in need of a dose of multi-cultural quirk, Ramadan is the pill. Well done.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

JOHN J SHANNON



Quikion and Lithuma Qnombus - Live
Quikion and Lithuma Qnombus - Live
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:DVD
Record Label:Poseidon Records
Catalogue #:PPS-001
Year of Release:2005
Time:84:00
Info:Quikion
Encoding & SoundRegion 0, Stereo

Tracklist: Toki No Mi, Moon And A Bride, Hallelujah, Zawa Zawa, Summertime, Bulerías On The Table, Nightharp, Iranian Boy, Cha-Ra-Ne, Spellbound, Tali-la, Heaven Knows, Incomplete Polka, Ouma-ga Toki, Briolage, Concertina Blues

I just recently reviewed Quikion’s sophomore CD Ramadan for DPRP. I quite enjoyed the CD and was impressed by Quikion’s quirky but accomplished use of Western, primarily medieval-style instrumentation to create Japanese pop music. (I wonder if it’s fair to call it “pop” music, since I don’t really know how the band members describe their compositions.) I have the good pleasure to now review a DVD of a live show by Quikion, but in this case, while the music is still excellent and compelling, some of the quirkiness is eliminated, replaced by a formidable, backbone rhythm accompaniment courtesy of the two-man Lithuma Qnombus. But what the band sacrifices in texture it gains in sheer power.

The members of Quikion are Totoki Yukiko, Oguma Eiji, and Sasaki Emi. All are multi-instrumentalists and Ms Yukiko is the lead singer and lyricist. Oguma Eiji plays all of the various acoustic, stringed instruments, with an odd but graceful technique: lots of capos, upstrokes, rhythmic chopping, plucking, etc. Sasaki Emi is featured principally on the accordion and some of the minor percussion. Kudoh Genta is the drummer for Lithuma Qnombus and is nothing if not a Japanese Mick Fleetwood. He lurks over and lunges at the kit a bit and every flourish is accompanied by a grin or similar facial punctuation. Kajiyama Shu is the bassist for Lithuma Qnombus; he uses a fretless bass throughout to nice effect. All-in-all, despite the fact that I don’t know the full professional relationship of each group to the other, I can only say that Quikion’s performance was greatly enhanced by the contributions from the highly capable and musically crafty tandem comprising Lithuma Qnombus. Maybe, in fact, this really is a Fleetwood Mac-esque ensemble, Nippon style (although, if so, hopefully the romantic tensions are better managed!)

I don’t watch many music DVDs. I’m not unfond of them, but I tend to prefer the audio dynamism of music rather than the visual, so I stick with CDs and my trusty headphones. But whenever I do watch a live show recorded for posterity, I usually get a kick out of it. It’s always telling to witness the degree of complexity the musicianship entails, by way of the actual manipulation of instruments. I can’t comment too authoritatively about the quality of the DVD per se, since I really wouldn’t know what makes for an “excellent” DVD (in technical terms). I will say that the footage was mostly clear and crisp, the close-ups of the various performers were in synch and sensible, and the sound was decent, at least, and mainly sharp. And the performance was versatile and warm, increasing my already keen admiration and appreciation of Quikion. This is nothing but well-rehearsed, well-delivered, smart, catchy, lovely music that showcases an eccentric but well-meshed assortment of instruments.

The entire DVD is worth your time (maybe, at 84 minutes, in two doses), but let me highlight a few standout tracks.

Toko No Mi is a slightly haunting song that builds to a dramatic, powerful jam toward the end. It features everything wonderful about Quikion: percussive, slightly off-kilter rhythms; an intelligent employment of tone, atmosphere, and space; Ms Yukiko’s heartfelt singing; and a madrigal groove that is gripping. Added to this is the sheer balls of Lithuma Qnombus’ propulsive beat. It’s never brutal or battering, but instead a sly, strong, commanding rhythm that lifts the music and gives it current to ride. I have to confess that Mr Shu’s bass solo in this tune is easily the most impressive outburst I’ve seen in a long time: absolutely fluid, melodic, and dexterous, it still manages to sound frenzied and impassioned. Toko No Mi is the first track of the DVD, and if it doesn’t win you over by the time Mr Shu erupts, please, press “Stop” and move on to something else.

Moon And A Bride is a track from the Ramadan CD and of course I was intrigued to hear how the group would manage it live. The answer is, “with aplomb”. All of the beautiful, subtle trappings are presented but there is an additional grandeur that perhaps was lacking on the CD and is supplied in part by the gentlemen of Lithuma Qnombus.

Bulerías On The Table opens with a collective round of hand-clapping, each musician working a unique beat. It’s brilliant and a perfect example of how the songs always seem to include a fresh arrangement or some novel idea. And Nightharp is gorgeous, a gentle, idyllic melodic song that fully evokes the images its title suggests. You’d expect to hear this music echo out over a valley under a lustrous full moon, played plaintively upon the pipes or a lute by some forlorn shepherd or vagabond soul.

There’s plenty more to love here; you should find out for yourself just how satisfying this performance really is. I think the addition of Lithuma Qnombus adds some meat to the stew that contemporary prog fans will prefer. There’s certainly a progressive feel to all of the music and in ways it all reminds me of the musical philosophy that, say, Genesis or Van der Graaf Generator or even Renaissance adopted in its heyday of sonic discourse.

If you detest Japanese singing (and you might), this DVD is sure to rub you the wrong way. But I can only recommend Quikion And Lithuma Qnombus Live without reservation to the same audience that might appreciate Ramadan: prog fans that thrive upon the strange instrumentation of forgotten times, that favour (or simply like) all-acoustic efforts bolstered by a driving rhythm section, and greet Japanese pop music in general with applause. This is niche music, to some degree, but it is remarkable.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

JOHN J SHANNON



Tadashi Goto - Soundscape
Tadashi Goto - Soundscape
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:CD
Record Label:Poseidon Records
Musea Records
Catalogue #:IM-005
MP 3046.AR
Year of Release:2005
Time:49:56
Info:Tadashi Goto
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Moratorium (1:24), World Update (3:29), Lapstone (4:36), Depth Interview (3:37), Loveless (3:54), Soundscape [i] Collision Course [ii] Apocalypic Statement [iii] Chaos And Complexity [iv] Pendulum Syndrome [v] Chaos And Negativity [vi] On The Edge Of Nowhere (11:08), A Priori (1:37), Science Without Humanity (5:24), Swan Song [i] Cold Turkey [ii] Zero Hour (6:03), The Uncertainty Of Life (4:11), Yin And Yang [i] Grand Delusion [ii] Wailling Wall [iii] The Great Awakening (4:32)

I found the title of this debut release from Tadashi Goto a little misleading, as right from the outset of this CD it is apparent that the music is not a collection of soundscapes, neither, as the title might imply, is this an ambient collection of musical collages. In fact Tadashi Goto treats us to an extremely aggressive and entertaining collection of instrumental pieces aimed more at impressing the listener rather than in some attempt to send them to the land of nod.

Soundscapes is a solo project with the entirety of the music being computer or synthesizer driven, however before moving on I would just like to quickly follow on from my opening remarks, stating that the tracks on Soundscape certainly made my ears prick up from the first piece onwards. This is well constructed and well written material, utilising a vast array of keyboard sounds. The overall sound is full with a distinct leaning to the heavy end of the spectrum - certainly there are few sections that allow you any respite. The keyboard sounds in general are well chosen and befitting the material. Difficult to offer any comparators without being misleading, but certainly ELP, Brain Salad Surgery era came to mind on a number of occasions. As did the work of Hal Darling.

The biggest downside of the album is the programmed drums, not so much in their execution, but more that they just do not have the necessary feel for these complex and varied pieces. This music needs a Simon Phillips or a Carl Palmer to bring it to life - and then of course a well chosen bass player. Now there are numerous examples of Electronic music working without the aid of a great rhythm section, but this music is written and performed as I would expect a hear from a band and therefore "Mr Mac Hine" didn't quite hack it for me.

Although somewhat intense I found all the tracks, perhaps barring the balladic Loveless, extremely engaging and I never felt any of the pieces outstayed their welcome. Having revisited this album a week or so after writing this review, I find I may have painted to "heavier" picture, and note should be made that the tracks do have dynamics.

As previously mentioned Soundscapes cries out for a live band, and I'm sure that given the opportunity and the right musicians Tadashi Goto would consider recording in this format and hopefully take his music on the road (and if not, he should). I could then imagine it would appeal to fans of Derek Sherinian's work, to mention but one. As it stands this is still a strong album and certainly worth investigating.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

BOB MULVEY



Flat 122 - The Waves
Flat 122 - The Waves
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:CD
Record Label:Poseidon Records
Musea Records
Catalogue #:PRF-027
FGBG 4608.AR
Year of Release:2005
Time:63:30
Info:Flat 122
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Movement From Silence op.1 (1:26), The Waves (15:40), Neo Classic Dance (6:04), Satie #1 (3:52), Movement From Silence op.2 (0:51), The Summer (3:38), Panorama (3:18), Dizziness (5:45), The Winter Song (7:56), Movement from Silence op.3 (0:47), Spiral (13:48)

The Waves is the creation of instrumental trio of Satoshi Hirata (Guitar), Takao Kawasaki (keyboards), and Kiyotaka Tanabe (drums). Guest vocalist Akane Kobinata offers a few short ambient pieces which serve as interludes.

This collection of instrumental tracks seems designed to cover three main styles. The aforementioned interludes (tracks 1,5,10) are rather atmospheric in nature, progressing to a climax in the last one (hence the name Movement From Silence). The dominant style on the CD is an intricate, adventurous brand of neoclassical/fusion/prog that reminds me of Happy The Man and Parallel Mind, both American bands. Hirata has an interesting array of tones, sometimes his guitar sounds like classic-era Andy Latimer (of Camel), but he often takes off into more of a Stanley Whitaker role, doing complex counterpoints with a tweezy overdrive tone. Kawasaki does a lot of nice piano parts, filling in organ and synth backdrops as well as lead figures. There are even a few Ozric Tentacles-like 'swirly water' accents used sparingly and with great effect. Presumably he does all the bass parts too, which are very muted and only serve to provide more bottom than the piano can. Tanabe I would describe as a Bill Bruford-ish drummer, and his snare especially has the boxy kind of tone Bruford seemed to favour with Earthworks. Tracks 3 and 7 are good examples of these kinds of compositions. Then, when they want to cool off, Flat 122 does a few tracks (e.g. 4 and 9) that are lovely, delicate nods to the Pat Metheny-Lyle Mays school of ambient jazz. And, I may add, these guys really do it with a feeling that is sometimes the missing element in outfits like this.

I listened to this CD 3 times - a minimum requirement with this depth of intricacy - and I found that I liked it more each time. That is a good sign! As is the case with the leading icons in our little musical world, the themes are subtle, but insistent and intelligent. I like this CD more than similar offerings by other artists because it is more diverse, and diverse in a good way. A good bassist would add the missing floor to this well-built three story house, and take them way over the hapless crowd below. It also would have added a point to my rating.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

JEFFREY TERWILLIGER



Molca - Super Ethnic Flavor
Molca - Super Ethnic Flavor
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:CD
Record Label:Poseidon Records
Musea Records
Catalogue #:PRF 022
MP 3044
Year of Release:2005
Time:65:06
Info:Molca
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Balkan Dawn (6:38), Shamrock Storm (5:35), Lost In The Night (4:22), Areia (5:40), Jiji (7:19), There's A Fire In The Kitchen! (4:48), Armadillo Goes To The Caribbean (5:01), Spring (5:11), My Friend (4:54), Black Maria (5:55), Bulgarian Dance (4:00), Allo'Bonjour! (5:13)

I will start by naming all the instruments played in this first album by Molca: fiddle, flute, greek bouzouki, ashbory bass, darbuka, oud, kajon, tap, melodion, acoustic folk guitar, Irish bouzouki, bodhran, triangle, shaker, piano, laouta, erhu, nylon-string guitar, rewep soprano, sitar, kalimba, angklung, tabla, caxixi, berimbau, pandeiro, tbilat, frog rasp, charango, banjo, sleigh-bells, viola, cuica, ganza, ukulele, concertina, Turkish banjo, mandolin and even a couple more I've missed. If you feel bad about not recognising some/most of them, don't worry, I don't know more than 20% of them either. Anyway, most of the songs are based on 5-6 of these, the rest just pop in here and there. And another point worth noting: five people play all these instruments, do not imagine a thirty people orchestra!

Honestly if I heard of a band using all these instruments I would immediately think they make an effort to do so and the result is probably...overloaded. This is not the case here though, the instruments are used wisely and they fit to the ambience of each song. Speaking of ambience, the band plays a lot of musical styles, but all absolutely ethnic coloured, and I would even hesitate to call this "prog". I would like to be clear though, I really think that they did very well to keep things this way and not to try to mix their sound and influences with progressive rock in order to be more appealing to our market. The only resemblance to prog that comes to mind are the solo works of Ian Anderson (flute + violin), especially in tracks Shamrock Storm and Jiji.

Music influences range from English-Irish tunes to Mediterranean ones on other tracks (My Friend), travelling from north to south (and east) via Paris (Allo'Bonjour!), gypsy lands and Balkans (Balkan Dawn). From Ian Anderson and Irish music to Serbia and Emir Kusturica, stopping by at a Paris cafe end of the 60's where some hippie band covers Henry Mancini (Spring). Almost no jazz influences here, although the beginning of the first track clearly points to bass-driven jazz works. There is a jolly and chirpy feeling all over the album, all tracks are fun to listen to and at some points there are some jokes performed by one of the numerous instruments the band can play, but also with some "vocals"-maybe sounds would be more appropriate here.

Most of us prog rockers enjoy a touch of ethnic in our music and I would go as far as saying that from all rock audiences progsters are the ones appreciating more the pure ethnic music. This release tends to belong more to this latter category, thus I am not sure if it could be recommended to all. Plus, I am not an ethnic expert and I cannot comment on the originality of their ideas. Some tracks actually sound a bit familiar and maybe this is the reason this release sounds pleasant, sympathetic and easy to listen to. Very pleasant album but I would not be surprised if an ethnic music specialist did not share my view. Especially since the ethnic element does not imply much experimentation - rather straightforward uplifting tunes. A rather weak point for me is the relative lack of (or stress on) percussion, something I would not expect from a band playing ethnic folk music: you can also just check the list above, with some effort categorise the instruments into percussion/non-percussion and you would probably agree...More emphasis on percussion would also create some more room for improvisation and experimentation. Ah, I left the best for last: Molca is a Japanese band! I would have NEVER guessed...

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

CHRISTOS AMPATZIS



Fantasmagoria - Live
Fantasmagoria - Live
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:CDR
Record Label:Poseidon/Vital
Catalogue #:VR-016
Year of Release:2004
Time:19:26
Info:Fantasmagoria
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Crusader (3:44), Karma (3:24), Blue Rice (3:26), Over The Line (3:38), Epic (5:12)

So first one out the Vital bag is a brief but extremely enjoyable offering from Fantasmagoria, a quintet of excellent musicians lead by Miki Fujimoto on violin. Joining her on this outing are two guitarists Junpei Ozaki and Masatomo Nakashima, with Yoichi Suzuki supplying the keyboards and the rhythm section comprising of bassist Kentaro Yoshida and drummer Masaazu Sato.

This five track taster CD from Fantasmagoria is a live recording made at the Star Pine's Cafe on 13 June 2004.

With Crusader the band quickly establish some ground rules - the brief opening section features Suzuki utilising a harpsichord sound and Fujimoto playing an infectious melody over the top. A lull before the storm as after forty seconds or so the guitars introduce a heavy metallic riff by way of an introduction to the band. The piece moves along nicely with the rhythm section playing tightly and cohesively, the keyboards changing to an organ sound and the guitars melodically weave around the violin. But just at the point you think the band have established the track, they veer off with a nice walking bass line and a great little violin solo - very Stefan Grapelli - before returning once more to the main body of the track.

Crusader nicely sets the tone for the album and the following pieces follow in a similar mould. Although I should qualify that the heavier guitar sections are blended into the music, giving it bite rather than aggression. So with the odd metering, tight arrangements and melodic themes, Fantasmagoria's mixture of prog, jazz rock and jazz are nicely blended into an interesting format. Now it this point it would be all to easy to select a few violin driven acts from prog's history to make some comparisons, and although little snippets may suggest some of these, a more accurate comparator would be fellow countrymen KBB.

Considering that this is a live recording the sound is extremely good, and as the audience's applause has been removed it is possible to believe this as a studio effort. Certainly I would be very interested to hear more from this band in the future and have no problems recommending this little taster to fans of melodic, jazz fusion tinged, progressive rock.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

BOB MULVEY



Climate Of Earth - Climate Of Earth
Climate Of Earth - Climate Of Earth
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:CDR
Record Label:Poseidon/Vital
Catalogue #:VR-019
Year of Release:2005
Time:25:33
Info:C.O.E.
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Indonesian Frog [from Indonesia] (5:24), Miko [from Japan] (4:12), Sand Dance [from Maghreb] (4:11), Nazka [from Peru] (6:08), The Earth's Crust [from Pacific Basin] (5:36)

Climate Of Earth (COE) offer yet another side to the Vital Records collection with the duo of Taro Matsuda (keyboards, programming, logdrum & vox) and Sanjin Syugetsu (rhythm programming) serving up their heavily sequenced, keyboard driven electronica. The duo, based in Tokyo, have been in existence since 1994, although this appears to be the only CD available from them. Now this may be an error on my part and note should be made of total lack of understanding of the Japanese language.

The tracks are fairly consistent with predominant percussive rhythms pulsing the music along, often with the inclusion of a heavy bassdrum beat and multi-layered keyboard parts. Musically falling under an all encompassing banner of New Age/World Music. This notion stems not only from the album's song titles but also from the inclusion of ethnic and tribal drum rhythms (Indonesian Frog being a prime example). Often the music is accompanied by various wildlife or jungle noises, giving an organic feel to the recordings. All the keyboard sounds have a pleasant timbre (if not a little 80s sounding) and rest easily on the ears.

Mercifully Matsuda and Syugetsu refrain from including any jarring or dissonant sections to their music, and have appropriately added "vocals" in certain areas to good effect. However for all its' pleasant nature I found Climate Of Earth a somewhat unfulfilling and bland listening experience, with the up shot being that the music didn't do an awful lot for me. I could certainly imagine having this playing in the background from time to time, but that's as far as it goes.

Conclusion: 5 out of 10

BOB MULVEY



F.H.C. - Triangulate
F.H.C. - Triangulate
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:CDR
Record Label:Poseidon/Vital
Catalogue #:VR-015
Year of Release:2004
Time:38:38
Info:F.H.C.
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Get My Goat (2:10), Elephant Walk (1:45), First Off (1:50), Beautiful Drowned Manle (1:14), Ocean & Strains Part II (1:59), Asymptomatic (0:39), Crayfish (1:15), 1cm per 1day (1:04), Rat With A Black Head (1:28), Don't Mix (4:39), Ocean & Strains Part III (2:58), Not To Be Taken Internally (2:17), Dacoit (0:55), Hoppy (2:07), No Talking (1:49), Doodadt (0:49), Star Shape Crystal (0:42), Round Off (1:45), Right Foot (2:16), Jugular (1:27), Tepidarium (3:19)

Triangulate is the fourth release from Fox Hole Commune (FHC) and sees the teaming up once again of Atushi Kasai (Chapman Stick) and Rumi (Plancia & keyboards). Unlike their previous release, One Locus Which Consists Of Three Fragments, which we reviewed back in 2003, this latest album is primarily the work of these two men. Triangulate features only one guest musician, Kunihiro Ando on Contrabass.

The album follows in many respects to its' predecessor. Again we have a plethora of short tracks, (all of which heavily feature Atushi Kasai Chapman Stick playing), making up the album, rather than any lengthy pieces. I found on the previous album that this made it difficult to get into, and sadly the same applies here.

On the whole FHC concentrate on the rhythmic nature of their music and less time appears to be spent on melodic content. So with the brevity of each of the tracks, coupled with the lack of memorable tunes the material soon washes over you. Finally if you add to this that apart from the Chapman Stick the other predominant instrument used is a rather unusual (fairground-like) sounding organ, then the material seldom raises itself to any meaningful level.

I also note that there is some duplication of tracks from the previous release - best track is still their take of KC's Elephant Talk - no surprises for guessing which one.

In the previous review of FHC's material, I remarked that I would be interested to hear more from this band, however the reality is that two years down the line the material hasn't progressed, (although it does sound different) and therefore my conclusions are similar once again. Of marginal interest perhaps to 80's era King Crimson fans, but I doubt it. I can only repeat my remarks from the review of their previous CD and say - I cannot see any great reason to purchase this, other than for curiosity's sake.

Conclusion: 4 out of 10

BOB MULVEY



Peter Room - Sumire
Peter Room- Sumire
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:CDR
Record Label:Poseidon/Vital
Catalogue #:VR-018
Year of Release:2004
Time:28:56
Info:Peter Room
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: A Person Who I Hate (4:13), Alabama Song (3:52), Andreas Brothers (8:42), It's Not worth I Afraid (6:57), Let Me Know A Song (5:09)

Sorry but I found this CD to be just dreadful! Now I've reviewed some poor CDs since joining DPRP, and this probably isn't the worst one I've done, but it certainly ranks up there. Now I appreciate that my opening remark is less than constructive and I did return to this CD just prior to uploading this review to see if my comment was perhaps a little harsh. I was further prompted to do so by one of our readers who pointed out the huge responsibility we, as reviewers, have when writing our thoughts on what has most likely been an expensive and time consuming process for the band in question.

The biggest problem with this album is that it is just irritating, and I just wanted to turn the damn thing off all the time. And in fact I did at the point I hit track three - Andreas Brothers. To clarify, the track has the most annoying keyboard sound, akin to an old steam kettle whistle - except higher in pitch, or perhaps an old analogue radio that is difficult to tune in. Not only does this last for about the first three minutes of the track, but the sound itself is high up in the mix and although for the main body of the song it is not played, it does return later on in the piece. The main irritant on this release however are the vocals of Azumi Kobayashi, (which I will just suggest to you) constantly strain the key signature they are written in. However this isn't the worst part - sadly Kobayashi insists on adopting a OTT theatrical, petulant childlike voice almost throughout - half sung, half shouted, wholly nauseating. I could go on but it would not serve any useful purpose.

Are there any saving graces - well, not many. The CD clocks in at just under half an hour - although it certainly felt longer - so that must be deemed as a plus. There are also sections in the tracks that are instrumental, which is a blessing! Here Kobayashi plays the flute - she really should play it more. And the band themselves are competent musicians and there are moments of interest, notably from the piano, but despite these plus marks it cannot salvage this release from the bin.

I would suggest that you make note of the opening track and purchase this release only if you wish to give it as a gift to... (changing the letter I to a You).

Conclusion: 2 out of 10

BOB MULVEY




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