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(40:45 / Poseidon Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Minokecak 2:31 2. Mari 5:59 3. Til Na Nog 5:25 4. Mizu Ga Ooino Sukunaino 5:45 5. Construction 4:45 6. Misidia 6:44 7. Olmeca 5:28 8. Tri-Band-Boom-II 4:04 LINEUP: Yasushi Kawaguchi - 5-string fretless bass, Stick Katsunori Takahashi - drums, percussion Kunihiko Sekido - keyboards Kosei Kayama - saxophones With: Keisuke Nashimoto - trumpet, flugelhorn
Prolusion. "Sangaky" is the second album by Japan's MINOKE, featuring the very same four men who recorded its predecessor, "Taneshida", back in 2003, plus one guest musician (see lineup above), who by the way is featured on no less than half of the tracks present.
Analysis. As the opening number, Minokecak, is quite overburdened with vocal buffoonery, I can't bring myself to call it a song, so I don't think it would be an outrage if I present "Sangaky" as an eight-instrumental recording. Seven of the tracks are new compositions, whereas Til Na Nog should probably be regarded as an alternative version of the piece of the same name from the quartet's first album. Unlike the original, which brings together elements of Jazz-Fusion, Art-Rock and Scottish folk music in approximately equal proportions, in this interpretation the emphasis is laid on the latter component. Featuring some blazing flugelhorn leads and plenty of sounds of accordion besides the quartet's traditional instrumentation, the tune begins and unfolds almost as a canonic Gaelic dance, but later on reveals quite a few variations on the matter, all being unusual in approach and generally intriguing. At first Misidia and Tri-Band-Boom-II both seem to be mellow quasi-symphonic ballads with beautiful memorable melodic lines and fully transparent structures, but the second dive into these seemingly calm musical rivers results in finding some quite turbulent undercurrents there, somewhere in the middle of each a dialog between bass and saxophone on the one hand and piano and strings on the other steadily growing into a kind of armed conflict between the 'factions', which fades too quickly though. In any event, each is a refined piece of music, additionally possessing the power to fire the listener's imagination. Ain Soph at their most delicate would be an apt reference point, though some National Health's influence can be detected there too, but where this one is really obvious is on Mari, Mizu Ga Ooino Sukunaino and Olmeca, no matter that there are three brass jokers:-) in these packs of musical cards, at times all simultaneously appearing at the fore: there's no lack in quasi-symphonic arrangements either, you may believe me. By the way, when listening to Olmeca I was even reminded of The Alan Parsons Project - think some of the most advanced movements from "Tales of Mystery & Imagination". At times sort of lazy, in places rapid and impulsive, but most of the time moderately intense, the music is full of dramatic transitions and is always eventful enough to please even the most demanding progressive listener, be they an orthodox jazz-fusion lover or an advocate of a more symphonic sound. Bassist Yasushi Kawaguchi and drummer Katsunori Takahashi are spirited players, supporting the material with a living energy, while saxophonist Kosei Kayama and keyboardist Kunihiko Sekido, at times along with Keisuke Nashimoto, are always on the edge of weaving the most intricate patterns. Now it is the turn of the best and the worst track. With no intention to pun, I must note that the piece Construction has an architecture that sets it apart from any of the others and which instantly harks me back to my first encounters with Zao, occasionally reminding of Henry Cow. The sound is mostly quite dark and angular, frequently flirting with dissonance. In short, much of the music here is Zeuhl with elements of RIO (though I've been always considering these styles to be the branches of the same tree). Brilliant. Despite its relative brevity, the already-mentioned Minokecak comes across as something heavily overextended. The point is that this opus is only made up of two different, hmm, segments that strictly alternate with each other, so each is repeated more than once.
Conclusion. A bit less profound and impressive than its predecessor, "Sangaky" is nevertheless a good album. Not only those moved by classic Jazz-Fusion will find something here to hold the interest.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: December 30, 2007
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