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Asturias - Circle In The Forest CD (album) cover





3.78 | 41 ratings

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4 stars A group of obviously-classically-trained Japanese musicians gather under the leadership of Yoh Ohyama to create some smooth jazz lite using keyboard sounds and computer technologies common to the 1980s New Wave and Neo Prog scene.

1. "Ryu-Hyo" (4:59) classically influenced beautiful music which is a little too busy for New Age relaxation music. Gorgeous melodies from Yoh Ohyama's violin are met with amazing piano play from Hiroko Tsuda. The buildup and crescendo near the end definitely disqualify this for the New Age category. So, then, what do we call it? "Prog Lite"? (9.25/10)

2. "Clairvoyance" (5:20) synth bass line at the opening gives this song a 80s R&B feel, like a Michael Jackson "Smooth Criminal" sound and feel. The drum line that soon enters does nothing to diminish this effect. But then some other instruments enter presenting a kind of Celtic ABC "Poison Arrow" sound and feel. The smooth atmospheric passage in the third minute is pretty awesome, but then we jump back into the 80s barrage of gumball synth lines. In terms of progressive rock, this one is kind of embarrassing--despite the high quality of engineering and musicianship that it takes to render it. (7.75/10)

3. "Angel Tree" (4:53) descending "arpeggio" of synth chords prefaces a sickly sweet classical guitar solo. Synth strings join in support, enriching the syrup a notch or two. Nice display of guitar play. (8.25/10)

4. "Tightrope" (6:55) a whole-band weave that once again postures itself more in the realm of smooth jazz with world music flair. The keyboard-led melody is rather ridiculous in its simplistic familiarity. In the third minute there is a slowdown and two-chord acoustic guitar arpeggio base over which Zamfir-like keyboard "piccolo" solos. Piano and bass rejoin, which is actually pretty cool, and then, in the fifth minute, drums and electric guitar, bringing the sound for the first time into a prog relam. Pretty great electric guitar solo and jazz bass play. (13/15)

5. "Circle in the Forest" (22:21) Several New Age-y synth sounds weave a gentle if simple and over-repeated melodic section for the first four minutes. A shift occurs at the end of the fourth minute in which one of the lead synth sounds ("harp") changes chords and melody of its arpeggi and is joined in a new weave by a lute-like sound. At the 5:00 mark a full band joins in with chunky bass and Lord of the Dance-like Celtic drums beating away to create a heavy section. This is then cycled around for the next four minutes with a softer, stripped down theme until the eighth minute when some NORTHETTES-like vocalese joins in. Around the 8:00 mark a different movement is initiated with a single bass note repeated around 110 beats per minute as classical celestina/12-string sounding chords progress with the drums playing off the established melody. It's a nice sound palette if a little "MacArthur's Park" like, simple, and Mike Oldfield-repetitive. Also, the drums' toms are a little early Simmons-like. Just after the 12:00 mark a fast-strumming acoustic guitar enters to guide a bridge to the next stripped down, piano and synth- based sentimental weave. Once again, some of the synth sounds used in this section are so New Age dated. (think of the brothers Steve & David Gordon's albums of the 1980s.) fifteen and a half minutes in and there is a single arpeggio to signal the shift to the next movement--this one softer but just as engaging. The new weave gets enhanced into a Incantations-era MIKE OLDFIELD-meets-UNITOPIA section for a rousing multi-instrumental weave of sophisticated complexity--perhaps the best passage of the album in both complexity and raw engagement (even if it is so very MIKE OLDFIELD-like). (41/45)

Total Time 44:28

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music. More in the realm of New Age/World Music than Neo Prog but there are connections.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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