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(36 min, Musea)
TRACK LIST: 1. Kagi 5:08 2. Snow Flake 5:59 3. Departure 6:27 4. Sacred Visions 3:29 5. A Girl's Wish 4:09 6. Neji 6:50 7. Birth 4:22 LINEUP: Midori - piano, accordion; vocals Tae - vocals; mandolin; piano With: Akihisa Tsuboy - violin Dani - bass Yo - drums Yoneda - guitars
Prolusion. ASHADA is basically a duo of two young Japanese ladies, Midori and Tae, who wrote all the music and lyrics for their debut recording "Circulation". Among the names of the four guest musicians, two are well known to me: violinist Akihisa Tsuboy and bassist Dani (both of KBB).
Analysis. Tsuboy performs on three of the seven tracks that form the content of this CD, while Dani remains in the ranks nearly throughout, both bringing much diversity to the music everywhere they are, say, well placed. The same words are relevant regarding drummer Yo and guitarist Yoneda. I slightly regret that none of the pieces feature the performance of all four of the guest musicians, though the first two tracks, Kagi and Snow Flake, hardly lose anything significant because of that. Both are instrumentals, and although they are not without vocalizations, these are delivered with taste and a sense of measure alike, in no way disturbing the harmonic beauty of the picture, but quite on the contrary diversifying it. The music is energetically saturated, full of adrenaline, with swirling violin, soulful accordion, pulsing bass and restrained piano dynamically conversing with each other to the steadily complicated beats of the drums. Despite the obvious absence of violin on Snow Flake (where there is an electric guitar instead), both pieces have something in common with KBB, though Quikion may also come to mind. In all, these two are very rich in sound and are the best, bringing together modern chamber music, symphonic Art- and Folk Rock and quasi Jazz-Fusion. That said, only the ladies' singing imparts some Japanese flavor to the stuff; otherwise everything is done in typically European tradition - everywhere on the album. The next five tracks all have their own merits and are good in all senses, but since all are slow in tempo and are vocal-based (the women singing in harmony and never really counterpoint), they are less attractive than the instrumentals, at least from a progressive standpoint. Departure, A Girl's Wish, Sacred Visions and Neji each have a couple of Classical-like interludes and are notable for a distinct chamber sound throughout, although only the former two are performed without drums. Nonetheless, the music is both original and melodically bewitching; the vocals are superb, highly professional, delivered with taste and expression. Unlike all the others, the last piece Birth is overtly affirmative in mood and is somewhat more traditional in sound, excluding its finale standing out for an inventive interplay between acoustic guitar and accordion.
Conclusion. The only major defect of this album is its inconsistency. The dynamically developing compositions should've been intermixed with those more reflective, while they just follow one another, in both cases. Anyway, Ashada's debut effort possesses enough virtues to be appreciated by many who are on friendly terms with progressive music.
VM: Agst 4, 2006
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