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(41:21, Poseidon & Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Yugake 7:11 2. Hanamizake 9:51 3. Yatagarasu 4:58 4. Riu 7:23 5. Tsukinokusa Tsuyunokusa 2:54 6. Ruten Ame 9:00 LINEUP: Junya Anan – keyboards Yasuo Asakura – guitars Futaba – vocals; flute Keiichi Yanagawa – bass Keita Kamiyama – drums
Prolusion. There are the very same five Japanese musicians, who made the self-titled MIZUKAGAMI debut release back in 2003, before “Yugake”, which is their sophomore effort.
Analysis. Just like “Mizukagami”, this recording is also made up of six songs, four of which are relatively long as well, though the albums have generally a lot in common between them. Nevertheless this one is somewhat less impressive than its predecessor, and while it’s not a failure, far from it, some drawbacks are obvious in both its compositional and performance departments. The same lineup with the same classic-standard instrumentation, still featuring a variety of analog, vintage-sounding keyboards (though with much fewer Mellotron patterns used), still for the most part cover the romantic side of symphonic Art-Rock that could have been from the ‘70s, but not so excitingly this time around. Besides being rich in large-scaled instrumental arrangements, the four longer compositions, the title track, Hanamizake, Riu and Ruten Ame, contain probably all the essential ingredients that determine the appeal and, importantly, the progressiveness of the classic sympho-prog sound. Intense, bombastic Hammond-, Moog- and guitar-driven Art-Rock in varied thematic configurations alternates with segments of calmer, at times purely acoustic music with only acoustic guitar, piano and flute in the arrangement, though there are also some prog-metal-like moves to be found on each – a novelty to the band’s repertoire. On the pieces’ instrumental angle, the influences include Genesis circa “Wind and Wuthering” (just as if with John Mayhew or even Chris Stewart instead of Phil Collins behind the drum kit), Camel at their most symphonic (especially evident when a flute plays, which, sadly, happens not as often as I would like it to) and, occasionally, ELP (only in some of the organ leads). For the sake of justice however, I must add here that none of the tracks sound derivative, partly thanks to Futaba, a female vocalist singing in a typically Japanese manner, whose thin, seemingly fragile voice does not resemble anyone else’s, save for her numerous countrywomen-in-Prog of course. Where the band trips up is in their rhythmic department, this must be laid exclusively at Keita Kamiyama’s door. His drumming on this CD is not always as resourceful as it might be, indeed being often straightforward, which is especially striking during some of the transitions where he continues playing just as before, without changing the pace or even the manner of the drumming either, being fully inadequate, well, to the significance of such moments. On the rocker Yatagarasu, he is extremely monotonous throughout, though this is generally a fairly dull repetitious number, coming across as being ‘crafted’, played and recorded during the same rehearsal (and then included in the disc so as to have it as a full-length album). Featuring only acoustic guitar, Mellotron and vocals, Tsukinokusa Tsuyunokusa is a varied, truly interesting ballad and is the only mistake-free track in the set.
Conclusion. I’m sure this CD will satisfy most of those who enjoy the group’s debut, many of whom in turn might not find anything negative when listening to it (with the exception of that rocker of course). My recommendations in this particular case only come to the disc’s makers and bandleader Anan in particular - whether to ask Keita to get reasonable or find a new drummer.
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