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TRACK LIST: 1. Souk 8:38 2. Kirmes 7:44 3. Ranja 8:43 4. The Golden Apples of the Sun 10:51 5. To Soldiers 8:31 6. Exquisite Blue 6:50 7. Escher 7:28 8. Estranger 9:39 All music: by Yamamoto. All lyrics: Yamamoto, Endo, & Nagaike. LINE-UP: Tamami Yamamoto - vocals Hideaki Nagaike - keyboards Keizo Endo - bass Yasuhiro Tachibana - guitar Hiroshi Mineo - drums Produced by Wappa Gappa. Engineered by G Tamai.
Prolusion. "Gappa" is the third album by the Japanese outfit WAPPA GAPPA with female singer and composer Tamami Yamamoto being at the helm for more than ten years. The band's previous albums were released in 1996 and 2000 (the latter also by Musea Records).
Synopsis. After Wappa Gappa released their second album, their music has been considered a traditional, 'average-statistical' Japanese Symphonic Progressive in the vein of Pageant, Mr. Sirius, etc. But while this definition is in many ways correct concerning "A Myth", it doesn't work with regard to the band's new album, which shines with originality, and not only. "Gappa" is much better than its predecessor and is a major improvement in everything, especially in composition. Well, unlike instrumental arrangements, the vocal parts are still notable for some repetitions, but listen to what occurs 'behind' them! All of the band's instrumentalists work hard throughout each of the songs, regardless of whether there are vocals or not. Furthermore, they play as if they never knew about the existence of time signatures. It's really amazing to hear Tamami's dramatic vocals, soaring over unusual, somewhat wry and seemingly anomalous rhythmic movements, provided by the band with regular changes. (The question I often put to myself was is it really Tamami who invented all those diverse and complex meters, turns and twists that make the listening to this album a real treat?) The style of all the vocal-based arrangements on the album is Wappa Gappa's own, unique, and offbeat Symphonic Art-Rock with elements of Cathedral Metal. However, the most wonderful thing about "Gappa" is the character that the purely instrumental arrangements are done in. On most tracks, they are truly large-scaled, diverse and intricate, but this is not all. Stylistically, they are vastly different from those going along with vocals and represent a remarkably innovative combination of Art-Rock, Jazz-Fusion, and RIO. By the way, this was the very first case when I defined the stylistics of purely instrumental arrangements separately from that of vocally instrumental ones, and it's justified, I'm sure. There are only two songs on the album that are a bit out of its general stylistic concept: Estranger and To Soldiers (8 & 5). The RIO-related components have been lost on both of them, while those of Jazz-Fusion only on the latter. Being rather slow and calm in its entirety, this is a very good song, but not a masterpiece, unlike others.
Conclusion. If all this music has been really composed by Tamami Yamamoto, just as it is stated in the CD booklet, Ars Nova's Keiko Kumagai must cede the throne of Progressive Rock's best female composer to her. Along with Bondage Fruit's "II", "Gappa" is one of the most extraordinary Japanese Prog albums with female singers that I've heard. This is a strong and really enjoyable effort.
VM: April 27, 2004
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