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(60 min, Poseidon PRF-033 / Musea FGBG 4640)
TRACK LIST: 1. Crisis 051209 15:18 2. Resentiment 8:55 3. Dark Hole 7:01 4. Lethe 9:01 5. Shell 16:28 6. Tautrogy 3:46 LINEUP: Satoshi Kobayashi - electric bass Kazumi Suzuki - flute Norimitsu Endo - drums Mitsuo - el. & ac. guitars; trumpet With: Kei Fushimi - el. guitar Daishi Takagi - keyboards
Prolusion. NAIKAKU was formed in 1998 in Tokyo and was originally a duo, comprising Satoshi Kobayashi and Kazumi Suzuki. The next year the lineup was expanded and became a sextet, though after the band released their first CD "Wheel of Fortune" in 2003 Kei Fushimi and Daishi Takagi were for some reason taken off the list of the band's official personnel. "Shell" is their second album.
Analysis. Naikaku is a group of technically very skilled musicians, producing a high-quality progressive sound. Their "Shell" is made up of six instrumental compositions, each normally coming with the slight predomination of bass and flute solos in the arrangements. The overall style should probably be regarded as classic Jazz-Fusion, though with a very strong Rock (perhaps even Metal) component and certain avant-garde tendencies, all evoking vivid associations with King Crimson's "Larks", "Starless" and "Red", which are also displayed in the band's ability to sharply change all the parameters of their music, e.g. direction, mood, rhythmic measures, etc and even volume levels. Flutist Kazumi Suzuki, however, brings a lot of alterations to the picture, even though his style of playing at times reminds me much of Ian Anderson's. The other and the last point of comparison would be the Mahavishnu Orchestra, but it would be unfair to list Naikaku's open and latent benefactors without mentioning that the album is much more notable for the band's original ideas than for those already familiar. It's difficult for me to choose any tracks as the best. With the exception of the closing number Tautrogy, all of them are multi-sectional compositions, whose content is highly complex and immediately intriguing. They are all of a unified stylistic concept, Tautrogy included. All are mostly intense and rapid, with intricate bass lines, "wow-wow" guitar solos and wonderful, at times positively wild, flute passages, the powerful drums providing exclusively complex rhythms. So the album can quite easily be perceived as one monolithic epic, and only the pauses between tracks slightly contradict the impression. Another strong impression the album made upon me concerns its sound, which has such a strong '70s feel to it that I would haven't been much surprised had I've been told it was recorded sometime in the middle of the happy decade. While constructed on different jazz-like rhythms and structures, the album however is rarely notable for genuine jazz chords and movements, many melodies being harmonized in a symphonic style. Wind instruments and keyboards sound mostly academically, while bass and electric guitar are usually more of an improvised nature. A wonderful trumpet/flute duet on Lethe is only one of the dozens of excellent examples of Naikaku's capacity to create unusual, yet fully structured musical shapes.
Conclusion. Naikaku's "Shell" is an absolute masterpiece and is a classic for the future, in my honest opinion. It will be a real feast for the adventurous. Neo fans should look elsewhere.
VZ & VM: April 4, 2006
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