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Round House - 2006 - "3-D"

(56 min, Musea FGBG 4639 / Poseidon PRF-034)

TRACK LIST:                    

1.  3-D 5:21
2.  Romantic Rally 8:42
3.  Super Warp 6:21
4.  Inori 7:52
5.  Amber Rain 5:09
6.  Tears of Sphinx 6:29
7.  Suisyagoya No Asa 9:09
8.  Carnival Night 3:29
9.  Jinzo-Hingen-2005 4:06


Masayuki Kato - guitars; programming
Soura Ishikawa - keyboards
Yoshiaki Uemura - bass

Prolusion. One of Japan's oldest progressive acts, ROUND HOUSE was formed in 1976. They had time to release two albums, "Jin-Zo-Ni-N-Gen" and "Wings to Rest", before they disbanded in 1979. The group's reformation took place at the very beginning of the new century and was marked with the release of their first live CD, "Live in Osaka", while now Round House present their new, third by number studio offering "3-D".

Analysis. Formerly/normally a quartet, Round House appear as a trio on this recording. The band's founders guitarist Masayuki Kato and bassist Yoshiaki Uemura are joined by keyboardist Soura Ishikawa, while the original/permanent drummer Hiroshi Natori is absent, although he was in the ranks during the band's tour back in 2001 and is featured on "Live in Osaka". That said, this is a sad fact, as it's the first time that Round House have used a drum machine instead of acoustic drum kit. Besides, the machine has a pronouncedly synthetic sound, though to Kato's credit, it is well programmed, both accurately and diversely accentuating any of the band's significant movements, as well as changes in their course. For the group that started with symphonic Art-Rock on their first album and made a quite drastic turn to improvisational music on their sophomore release, "3-D" looks like a quite logical step towards, say, conciliating both of their passions. However, I believe I will not sin against the truth if I say those least jazz-inflected are at the same time the best ones in this set of nine instrumental pieces. These are the title track and Jinzo-Hingen-2005, taking the oppositions in the album. ("Oppositions" is a self-made neologism - compound word, which means "opposite positions", with your permission.) The music is mostly complex, intense and bombastic and is classically influenced symphonic Prog with nice orchestral arrangements and plenty of rapid, highly masterful solos from each of the Three. Comparisons with ELP and Gustav Holst are inevitable. Only some parts of piano can be referred to Jazz-Fusion, although even these are composed improvisations in the end. The two pieces that follow the opening track, Romantic Rally and Super Warp, are also multifarious, dynamically evolving compositions, just slightly inferior to the winners, perhaps due to the absence of Classical-like movements, although there are synthesized strings and woodwinds on each. The music is an alternation of symphonic and improvisational textures rather than a union of the tacit idioms, which in turn we get on the two that precede the last track, Suisyagoya No Asa and Carnival Night, though the abundance in sounds of marimba on the latter imparts also some ethnic feel to it. Along with real instruments, namely piano, synthesizer, guitar and bass, the synthesized trombone plays an important role on Inori. This piece is as if advisedly designed to be divided almost precisely into two parts, developing from a slow melodic Fusion (just Fusion, in a widespread sense of the term) to an intense driving jam worthy of both of the winners. Surprisingly, one of the compositions turned out to be quite atypical of Round House: Tears of Sphinx, a symphony of outer spheres much in the style of Carried by Cosmic Winds from Eloy's "Planets". Only a brief episode in the middle with the Camel-inspired guitar solo at the fore might return the listener to earth. Finally about the Amber Rain, running both softly and slowly right in the core of the material. There is a sequenced solo of sampled harp that runs all through this romantic ballad, though those of real instruments are also too smooth, polished and predictable all at the same time. Not much variety, to put it mildly, especially in comparison with the rest of the material. By the way, have you noticed that the album's overall construction possesses a certain symmetrical grace, due to the proper arrangement of the tracks? You will, in the event you hear it.

Conclusion. While "3-D" is definitely a good album, at least overall, I can't say it's a really strong comeback for Round House, because it is inferior to any of their previous three efforts. Sure, it is very likely that I would have said quite the contrary if the material had been recorded with a real drummer.

VM: May 31, 2006

Related Links:

Musea Records
Poseidon Records
Round House


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