Rock Of Asia 2023


Japanese veterans of environmentally conscious acoustic adventurousness launch a new chapter in their distinguished, if understated, journey.

Having closed the opening phase of ensemble’s existence by releasing "Asian Anthology" which spanned their first decade, Nikki Matsumoto’s team of kindred spirits move on with an album number four that might be the most sentiment-filled opus in the quartet’s oeuvre. Still escaping the pull of electric gravity in favor of emotional charge, and a few grave subjects too, the band’s performances on this platter are simultaneously exquisite and muscular – no mean feat but an oxymoron they flesh out in an often austere, as weather on Honshu, sound bound to chill the listener to the bone and then wrap those entrapped by it in a blanket of compassion.

The key to “TAMI” may lie in the album’s only cover, the koto-spiced “El Condor Pasa”: a Peruvian perennial given evergreen appeal in New York and taken all the way to Tokyo now to be offered for free as a sign of the group’s refreshed creative liberty. This feeling is perfectly tangible from the very beginning, from the record’s gusty, gutsy, title track that’s delivered with a lot of gusto which the band’s weave will turn into a sonic wave even before Matsumoto’s falsetto-flecked vocals come to the fore to shape a passionate fire out of the piece’s gloomy tune and infectious singalong. But if the wail of Yuki Ishii’s violin and the strum of Yasuhisa Murase’s acoustic guitar sprinkle old-timey dust over “Four Legged Requiem” – rendered dramatic through the collective leader’s almost orchestral use of various stringed instruments – and “Capital In Your Vein” that’s patinated, yet vigorous as a Wild West saloon fare, Nikki’s sanshin and Kizen Ohyama’s shakuhachi flute make the mesmeric, tradition-informed ripples of “Sunbright” and the entrancing, baroque-tinged balladry behind “Eastern Eyes” truly timeless.

However, “Keep Yourself Alive” provides the foursome with a chance to unplug, clap their hands and rock away, propelling their merry towards the cut’s life-affirming refrain only to switch the platter’s drift to sorrow which “Stranger In The Homeland” outlines with a soul-touching elegance, and a filigreed worry of the wordless “Tomorrow” brings to symphonic edge that’s so fitting for the album’s finale. The finale to prompt the listener to repeat the experience from anew as it’s immensely gripping.


July 16, 2023

Category(s): Reviews
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