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Asturias - Circle In The Forest CD (album) cover





3.68 | 38 ratings

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3 stars New age music's peak of popularity, chiefly among child-rearing former prog fans, coincided with the advent of corporate microcomputing in the late 1980s. Some musicians comfortable in all these realms were also fans of MIKE OLDFIELD's late 70s and early 80s works, and one of the more accomplished such groups was Japan's ASTURIAS. "Circle in the Forest" was their debut, a blend of often beautiful themes occasionally stunted by cold production and an apparent need to incorporate non musical programming in erstwhile musical arrangements.

The high points are generally where the captivating main theme of this album is expounded upon, in "Angel Tree" and the latter 12 minutes of the sprawling title cut, which is like a combination of the stormier parts of "Hergest Ridge" and the minimalism of "Incantations". But "Ryu-Hyo", which opens the proceedings, provides some fine piano rolls and simple melodic guitar figures that raise it above and beyond most of the better new age recordings of the time, and more firmly into the realm of the progressive.

The weaker tracks are the robotic "Clairvoyance", where the machines take a bit too much charge, although again here some fine lead guitars prevail, and the similarly frosty "Tightrope".

The juxtaposition of crystalline somewhat synthetic arrangements and natural themes is not unknown in Japanese music. One need only name KITARO among many others, but ASTURIAS' "Circle in the Forest" is worth a look if you like simple melodies that are allowed fruitful if not full expression. True, sometimes the circle is sonically portrayed as a loop with a deficient exit condition, in programming parlance, but at least it's pretty.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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