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(64 min, Vital)
TRACK LIST: 1. Nickel & Dime 6:28 2. Zapping TV 5:56 3. Crazy Go Around 7:23 4. Gestalt Collapse 6:20 5. Top Butler 8:12 6. Iron Man 5:43 7. Fifth Drive-2 7:40 8. Gestalt Collapse-2 7:48 9. Alternative Magma 8:36 LINEUP: Kishimoto Junichi - guitar; synthesizer; programming Sugawara Shin - saxophone; wind synthesizer With: Onuma Shiro - drums (4, 8)
Prolusion. CHERNO is a Japanese duo of guitarist Kishimoto Junichi and wind-instrumentalist Sugawara Shin, which has been in existence since the middle of the '90s. They have four full-length albums to their credit, namely "Trigonometric Reactor" (1997), "Missing Illusion" (2000), "Slight Trick All Around" (2003) and "Complicity Vision" (2006), of which I am acquainted with the latter three.
Analysis. Apart from the duo, "Complicity Vision" features session drummer Onuma Shiro on two tracks, but I don't find any significant difference between those and the others, because the drum machine used has a rich, meaty sound and doesn't have that pronouncedly synthetic feeling which is normally typical of such engines. Another positive aspect is that the machine is excellently programmed, following each of the duo's essential movements not only correctly, but also in the most intricate way which seems to be ever possible here, even in the presence of a real drummer. The overall sound isn't pristine, which one may find to be a flaw, but not I. Music is above all, and the music of Cherno is so compelling and unique that I forget anything else while listening to it. Nickel & Dime opens the album and is the most intense. The crunchy guitar riffs and blistering guitar solos rush rapidly to the accompaniment of complex staccatos from the machine, encountering positively wild sax trills, which however may seem to be done impromptu only upon the first spin. As is typical of most tracks, the music is scrupulously composed. Furthermore, one of its most notable components is melody, and it harmoniously coexists with the others of such, namely harshness and (nice, cheerful) craziness. In all, the best stylistic definition for Nickel & Dime would probably be a confluence of Techno Prog-Metal and quasi Jazz-Fusion. This is a masterwork, full of brave and unexpected decisions, but without anything, say, supernatural, which is yet to appear on some of the further compositions. The same words are topical with regard to Zapping TV and Alternative Magma, both falling squarely into the framework of specialty of Cherno's most traditional concoction, which is a dark MIO (certainly Metal-In-Opposition), yet still being extremely unique, driving and intriguing all at the same time, angular constructions adjoining pronounced melodic lines as if they ever were parts of a single whole. Those loving a Belgian-school RIO/MIO, Present in particular, should easily understand what I mean. The third track, Crazy Go Around, stands out for its distinctive semi-chamber flavor, which retains its aroma even during the piece's heaviest moments. The sonic palette is amazingly polyphonic, comprising of the sounds of piano, vibraphone, oboe and some other woodwinds, apart from those related to Rock. After a short piano interlude everything begins moving, soon merging into one complex, yet indescribably beautiful, transporting (trance-porting:-) dance - something I've never heard until now. The duo apply MIO movements from time to time, but anyway, contrary to the track's title, there is nothing crazy here at all, a compositional integrity and melodic refinement reigning everywhere. Each of the said tracks is a quirky, intelligent composition with constantly shifting themes laced with original chord progressions and high dynamism. No direct woodwind or brass solos on any of the other five pieces - just those processed via the wind synthesizer, and many of such have a quite fantastical sound, as if they were of unearthly origin. The two segments of Gestalt Collapse are located far from each other, but musically they're much in the same vein. Filled with direct and reverberated solos of guitar, both steer somewhere between experimental and psychedelically atmospheric Space Rock, at times having a somewhat cold electronic-like feeling, yet never being sufficiently boring to consider them to be makeweights. Top Butler, Iron Man and Fifth Drive-2, following one another at the recording's core, are even more atypical of Cherno, but these are fascinating. Full of a strong magnetic power, they immediately grasped my attention and kept it strained from beginning to end. Each is notable for two primordially conflicting strata, one of which is built by the guitar and 'the rhythm section', and another by the dark, low-pitched, yet still indescribably unusual combined sound (perhaps a mix of a traditional and wind synthesizer). Only the one closer to the finale of Iron Man finds a more or less distinct outline, reminding me much of a Turkish flute, Nai. Contrasting, hypnotic, joyous. Doom/Techno/Prog-Metal, RIO, symphonic, electronic and minimalist music all delivered in one package.
Conclusion. From a pan-creative standpoint, there is no difference between this and the previous two albums by Cherno, all being masterworks in my understanding. On the other hand, I think the duo have arrived with a largest set of discoveries this time out. All in all, "Complicity Vision" seems to be their most accomplished effort to date. If Prog heaven does really exist, the most adventurous of open-minded music lovers will definitely find its signs here. I only wonder why the bearer of this album is CD-R, and not a cast CD. In other words, "Complicity Vision" should've been released directly on Poseidon Records, and not via its 'experimental' sub-label, Vital Music.
VM: June 5, 2006
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