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(53 min, Musea & InterMusic)
TRACK LIST: 1. Itsumo Hajimari 1:30 2. Canary Creeper 5:11 3. Golem 6:45 4. Bluetail of Passage 4:33 5. Air Flow 5:16 6. Secret Recipe 4:50 7. L'Esprit de L'Exil 7:03 8. Mariana's Garden 5:30 9. Danse Rituelle du Feu 5:52 10. Ripple 6:20 All tracks: by Umegaki, except 4, 5: Kurihara & 9: M De Falla. Arranged & produced by Lu 7. LINEUP: Luna Umegaki - keyboards Tsutomu Kurihara - guitars With: Ittoku Shimamura - drums Hirobumi Suzuki - percussion Toshimi Nagai - bass Vagabond Suzuki - Stick &: Anri Sekine - cello (6, 10) Mark Hamilton - bagpipe (2) Toru Itoga - voice (2) Kazumi Hasegawa - voice (2)
Prolusion. With the release of the "L'Esprit de L'Exil" album, Japan's LU 7 celebrates their debut on the international progressive scene. The project's website is mentioned in the CD booklet, but there is nothing there, yet, but a notice announcing that the page is under construction.
Analysis. LU 7 is basically a duo comprised of keyboardist Luna Umegaki and guitarist Tsutomu Kurihara, the female musician being the author of most of the ten compositions presented, all of which are instrumentals. Only the short first track does not feature a performance by any of the guest musicians (see lineup above). With the exception of Secret Recipe and Ripple, to which I'll return below, each of the further tracks has a full-band sound. As to the essence of the opening piece, Itsumo Hajimari, it has a Celtic/Gael's folk music in its basis and can easily be regarded as an intro to its follow-up, Canary Creeper, because the band continues developing the same compositionally stylistic scenario there, with real Scottish bagpipes adding more distinctive colors to the picture. Golem follows and displays a quasi Jazz-Fusion approach. The wide use of ethnic percussion (congas et al.) and emulated sounds of some Asian folk instruments imparts a distinct oriental piquancy to the piece. Golem and Air Flow are in many ways kindred compositions, but the latter has a Spanish sense, due to the specific solos of acoustic guitar running all through it. Bluetail of Passage marks the departure from composed Jazz-Fusion, but as the representative of the album's primary direction, this piece will be described later, because it is separated from its brothers in style by two tracks displaying another creative side of this very versatile ensemble. These are Secret Recipe and Ripple, each featuring the performance of cellist Anri Sekine and representing a really unique and very cohesive confluence of composed Jazz-Fusion and Classical music. But while the former piece is of a mixed electrically acoustic nature, Ripple has a clearly chamber feel throughout, as it's made up exclusively of acoustic fabrics, woven by three acoustic instruments: piano, cello and guitar. Bluetail of Passage and the remaining three pieces following one another closer to the end of the album: the title track, Mariana's Garden and Danse Rituelle du Feu are the works of authentic Jazz-Fusion, at times swingy, at times classically influenced, but always up-tempo, intense and dynamic, with complex arrangements and masterful solos from each of the musicians involved. The music is highly original, just as everywhere on the album. Nevertheless, there is something barely perceptible on each of these four, which makes me think of Allan Holdsworth, particularly Allan's solo efforts such as "The Metal Fatigue" (Side B, LP talk) and "Atavachron". Glorious music.
Conclusion. This album is uncommonly strong for a band's first effort. It may seem to be not that deep upon the first spin, but this would be a wrong impression. Be sure, the subtle complexities of Lu 7's music will reveal themselves with each successive listen. Highly recommended, on any progressive level.
VM: May 24, 2005
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