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Kenso - Utsuroi Yuku Mono CD (album) cover

UTSUROI YUKU MONO

Kenso

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.91 | 28 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

fuxi
Prog Reviewer
4 stars KENSO KEEP GETTING BETTER AND BETTER!

There are several things that clearly distinguish Kenso from other great "instrumental prog" bands. Let me name the most striking ones:

1. Kenso have been active for over a quarter century, always under the leadership of guitarist/synthesizer player Yoshihisa Shimizu.

2. They've released masterpieces in every single decade.

3. All their best albums are graced not only by Shimizu's playing, but also by the contributions of bassist Shunji Saegusa, and not one but TWO virtuoso keyboard players: Kenichi Oguchi and Kenichi Mitsuda. How all these musicians manage to stay alive, I just don't know (apparently Shimizu is a dentist) but they obviously play music they love, without making commercial concessions.

4. Finally, Kenso's music just keeps getting more and more sophisticated; they don't make concessions to the listener, either.

On Kenso's latest album, UTSUROI YUKU MONO, you WILL hear catchy melodies (the music has been carefully composed and arranged; I detect little or no improvisation) but these seventeen tracks are extremely changeable in mood, exuberant and quirky - which means you'll need to spin the album at least seven times before you can sing along! The music changes more rapidly and more often than on PFM's classic albums; the extreme variety of tempos and instrumental colours is enough to keep any prog lover happy.

What shall we compare UTSUROI YUKU MONO to? If you're into 1970s prog, just think of the instrumental bits in "Sound Chaser", of A PASSION PLAY, or of Steve Hackett and Rick Wakeman at their most manic, and you're close...

In his sleeve note Shimizu explains he was inspired by Yasunari Kawabata's PALM OF THE HAND STORIES, a well-known collection of more than a hundred brief and poetic prose-sketches, some of which are highly surreal. I don't get the impression Shimizu set any of the sketches to music, but he followed Kawabata's lead in flitting from one mood to another so rapidly the listener sometimes needs to catch his breath.

Because of its complexity, UTSUROI YUKU MONO is an album you can happily keep exploring for years, and I'm still finding my way, but let me finish with a few concluding remarks.

(a) Don't get me wrong, not every track sounds hectic, there are a few beautiful moments of peace and quiet, Shimizu is also a master on acoustic guitar.

(b) Some of the tracks feature 'flamenco singing' by special guest Keiko Kawashima. Her vocals sound totally un-Spanish but they're great fun, and they certainly add some welcome warmth to Kenso's sound.

(c) Although Progarchives labels Kenso's music as jazz-rock/fusion, what you get is definitely NOT jazz-rock in the tradition of Herbie Hancock or Billy Cobham. Kenso are fond of fast, fusion-style riffs (and in Keisuke Komori they have found a brilliant new drummer) but like National Health and 1970s King Crimson they are influenced by European concert music rather than jazz. There are a few moments of (delightful!) mellotron-drenched bombast, but (like everything else on the album) these don't last long...

(d) The album is graced by a beautiful cover picture of belly-dancer ISIS Atsumi.

(e) You may need to pay a relatively high price for UTSUROI YUKU MONO (even inside Japan the album costs around 15 British pounds, 22 Euros or 30 U.S. dollars) but in my view this is more than worth it: you get more than an hour of highly inspired and unforgettable music.

fuxi | 4/5 |

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