The Right Honourable 2018
Charting a new course through mythology and Mœbius comic strip on the verge of their 10th anniversary, Japanese quartet emerge victorious.
There’s no standing still for this ensemble whose very name must suggest perpetual motion. 2015’s "The 3rd Planetary Chronicles" constructed an entire concept out of its promise, while “Ship” concentrates, for the most part, on a specific vessel: “Argo” – dedicating the album’s first half to Jason’s progress beyond The Clashing Rocks and other obstacles and scaling various naval, aerial and terrestrial extremities on the second. The foursome rarely venture across the boundaries of their chosen genre, and although such approach wouldn’t find Yuka Funakoshi push the envelope too far, her band’s collective imagination is perfectly poised to reflect on mythology – ancient and contemporary – in instrumental terms, with occasional voice to map the route.
Thus, filling the record’s sails to set off, Sonja Kristina blows CURVED AIR‘s reserved vigor into “Tears Of The Figurehead” yet for the rest of the trip – until the equally questing finale of “Did You Find A Star?” is taking the listener on a new timewarp, with a “Starless” ghost for a company – vocals serve a merely decorative purpose. Still, what can initially sound like art-rock by numbers, once the aeolian lucidity of “The Ship Argos” has been shattered by heavy guitar gusts, will turn out majestically adventurous when massive bass waves announce “Landing” and usher in spectacularly solemn, albeit inherently wild, organ wigout whose moves help pacify the deceptively vain bombast and give way to a toned-down grandeur. It may bare a baroque depth in “Golden Fleece” where ivories and six strings lead the unhurried dance towards spectral oratorio, but they also provide boogie rumble and funky stumble for “A Dragon That Never Sleeps” that’s also possessed, in the crossfire of fretwork and synthesizer runs, with fierce fusion.
Contrast plays a major role here. If, delivered in Japanese and gradually gaining momentum, “Visible Light” evokes the ’80s sort of electronica-tinctured intricate, innocent pop songs, and “Old Ship On The Grass” is a riveting folk ditty, the multilayered retrofuturistic elegance behind “The Airship Of Jean Giraud” marries Renaissance frivolity to steampunk frills and thrills, letting Yuka’s many voices flutter amidst filigree lines of fine emotional texture. An arresting journey for those who love to be cast adrift, this “Ship” has to be boarded and enjoyed.