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Ain Soph - A Story Of Mysterious Forest CD (album) cover

A STORY OF MYSTERIOUS FOREST

Ain Soph

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.99 | 95 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars In a time when so many groups were abandoning an adventurous rock approach for something more straightforward and mainstream, the Eighties would prove that Japan still proudly carried the progressive rock flag, and that particular decade holds several standout acts and albums from that country. Late-Seventies act Ain Soph delivered their debut in 1980 (although a crudely recorded live demo `Ride on a Camel' under the name Tenchi Sozo with a slightly varied line-up popped up two years prior), and `A Story of Mysterious Forest' is a fully instrumental crossover of everything from jazz-rock/fusion with a side dollop of the Canterbury sound with symphonic grandness, psychedelic touches and a little classical pomp, all delivered with the technicality and professionalism that is a consistent characteristic of Japanese prog-related groups.

Opener `Crossfire's brisk fusion blasts of aggressive breakneck Mahavishnu Orchestra-like electric guitar shredding, gulping bass, delirious synth wig-outs and Brand X-ish peppy drumming are contrasted with `Interlude I's pretty acoustic guitar laments, bringing a welcome relief after the first few minutes of manic energy. Then it's straight into the first of a few longer pieces, `Natural Selection', with plenty of sprightly jazzy piano bursts, a Vangelis-like swoon to the synths and the most fleeting of nimble little guitar salvos back and forth spliced in here and there. `Variations on a Theme by Brian Smith' marries impulsive Renaissance-like classical piano dazzle and symphonic fanfare to skittering jazz-fusion sprints and a touch of drifting dream-like whimsy. With nods to National Health and Soft Machine peppered throughout, molten guitar eruptions saunter between electric piano/Mini-Moog noodling and some deliciously scratchy Mellotron slivers.

But it's side-long suite `A Story of Mysterious Forest' that will most have prog fans watering at the mouth like the epic-craving fiends they are! In its near-nineteen minute length, the fantastical ten- part title-track mostly takes a bit of a back-step from the furious jazz-fusion races but reveals several haunting themes that hold everything from a Gandalf-like colourful New Age gentleness, symphonic soundtrack elegance, Camel-modelled dreaminess and a touch of Rick Wakeman- esque prancing madrigal regality, and it's even a little playful and loopy here and there! Sure to be an album highlight for many listeners is a slow-burn and crisp Andy Latimar/David Gilmour- flavoured electric guitar solo that unfolds over several minutes and rises above sweetly humming organ and lilting Mellotron. The concluding `Interlude II' is then a warm acoustic come-down to close on.

A reworked line-up would be in place by the time 1986's superb follow-up `Hat and Field' arrived, but it's especially the reputation of this debut that persists and keeps Ain Soph being spoken about. There's truly something to appeal to so many different kinds of prog listeners scattered throughout `A Story of Mysterious Forest', and its strength is not only in its technical skill and musical diversity, but in how tightly composed whilst remaining melodic its pieces are but still allowing for deftly executed improvising runs. Listeners wanting a fine jazz-fusion/symphonic/Canterbury crossover disc should absolutely investigate this one immediately, and it's proof that there was still plenty of prog-rock gold being delivered in the Eighties.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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