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Trio-96 (Japan) - Overall View

Prolusion. TRIO-96 is a Japanese outfit, and it's clear from the band's name that it was formed in 1996 and was originally a trio. By the irony of fate, they've become a quartet while working on their first album, and their follow-up, which was performed and recorded live, is the brainchild of the two permanent members: Kenji and Yasuhiro. In other words, Trio-96 did not manage to release anything as a trio, at least so far, and the titles of their albums just reflect the number of the musicians in the lineup.

- 1999/2004 - "Quartet '99" ******
(31 min, Poseidon & Musea)


1.  Nana 6:37
2.  JB 6:02
3.  5 Beats 6:51
4.  9 Beats 5:25
5.  Hayai Kyoku 6:23

All tracks: by Trio '96.


Ishikawa Kenji - guitar 
Tanako Yasuhiro - drums
Ejiri Hiromitu - bass
Yano Tomoaki - sax

Produced & engineered by Trio-96.

Synopsis. It won't be a revelation for many of you dear readers, if I note that Poseidon Records is the outpost of experimental progressive music. I have heard and reviewed probably all of the label and its subdivision releases (Inter Music, Vital Music, et al), as well as those produced in collaboration with Musea Records, and I must admit I am always eagerly waiting for anything new to appear in their catalog. The fact of discovering absolutely new and unique forms of music has already become an ordinary event within the precincts of the label. "Quartet '99" is the typical Poseidon production. The band moves beyond any possible traditional barriers that may have existed to create a more cohesive, etc, musical picture. The music is both extremely complicated and genuinely honest and is hardly liable to comparisons, even if its general stylistic direction isn't indeterminable, at least in my view. All six of the compositions are in a jazzy RIO tradition with some post-modernist, impressionist and similar Avant-garde tendencies. Of course, it would be absolutely pointless to expect to hear on this material any other melodies except those that are exclusively angular. Most of the arrangements on the album are extremely intensive and eclectic and are performed rapidly. Some place for rest can be found only on 5 Beats (3). The guitar parts are often harsh and, as well as those of bass and drums, are more structured than those of saxophone. Virtuosity, showing by each of the band members, is top-notch, and their huge technical potentials are inseparable from their talent in composition and arrangement. Some people may disagree with my definition of the band's style after hearing the album. But whatever you want to call it, it's enjoyable, unusual, and constantly surprising music.

VM: July 23, 2004

Musea Records

- 2004 - "Duo '03" ******
(42 min, Poseidon & Musea)


1.  Left-handed Rotation 9:04
2.  Kerenmi Afureru Pray 6:03
3.  Curriculum 5:52
4.  Improvisation-1 6:49
5.  Hommage a A&G 5:42
6.  Improvisation-2 9:00

All tracks: by Trio 96.


Ishikawa Kenji - guitar, V-guitar
Tanako Yasuhiro - drums, V-drums

Produced by Trio 96.
Recorded live in Japan.

Synopsis. As mentioned in the very first paragraph of the material, in its second incarnation TRIO 96 turned out to be a duo, and the guys have chosen definitely the most risky and daring way to continue their discography when they decided to record their new material live. While the sound of the outfit's new album is a bit less polyphonic and dense than that of its predecessor, it is almost unbelievably rich for a duo, especially taking into account that there are no overdubs. In any case, it's hard to resist the mastery and plenty of the other virtues that these two men have managed to show on their show somewhere in Japan in 2003, which has become their new album. Still, the music is both highly original and innovative, though on a couple of tracks Kenji could not hide his passion for Robert Fripp and Allan Holdsworth's styles of playing guitar. However, only the latter musician's influences, available on Left-handed Rotation (1), are really obvious. Thanks to the active use of V-instruments, the direct parts of electric guitar and acoustic drums on the album's opener, and also on Kerenmi Afureru Pray, Curriculum, and Hommage a A&G (2, 3, & 5), are often accompanied by the sounds of bass, synthesizer, and assorted percussion. Although highly eclectic and more improvised than composed, the music always remains structured and, thus, is more or less easily comprehensible. The events develop as an intensive Jazz-Fusion with some digressions into an RIO, rather harsh (and more immutable) guitar Art-Rock, and atmospheric Space Fusion. Both of the parts of Improvisation (4 & 6) are indeed purely improvisational in character. They represent constantly developing, high-speed interplay between solos of guitar and those of drums without employing any other technologies and sounds. These have their own merits and are hardly less impressive than the other tracks. Apart from the heroes of this review, I know only one amazing two-men ensemble, which is capable to do simply outstanding live performances and make albums on their basis without any overdubs. This is >Jugalbandi, though the sound of Duo '93 is both much richer and clearer than that of their US lineup counterpart.

Conclusion. For those faithful, sick and tired of endlessly repeating refrains, the kaleidoscope of hot spontaneous, yet, meticulously wrought arrangements by these Japanese philosophers will be a treat for the soul and a source of many pleasant emotions, as riddling of stuff like this is the best leisure for any experienced and open-minded Prog-head. Both CDs come highly recommended, but, being far from classic progressive realms and free of any traditional framework, they aren't for everybody, of course.

VM: July 26, 2004

Related Links:

Musea Records
Poseidon Records


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