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Asturias - In Search Of The Soul Trees CD (album) cover





4.05 | 46 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars Since Asturias mastermind Yoh Ohyama has been often called the Japanese Mike Oldfield, the similarities between his music and that of the English multi-instrumentalist will not come as too much of a surprise. However, it would be very unfair to tag Asturias as a clone band, as here we are mainly referring to similarities in the structuring of albums, and in the emphasis on instrumental compositions rather than conventional songs.

"In Search of the Soul Trees" is a wholly instrumental effort, a suite divided in two parts, each comprising five sections. The concept on which it is based has with a definite 'new-age' flavour - a spiritual journey deeply rooted in nature, the titles of the various sections suggest. Even though all this might sound rather déjà vu, the good news is that the music actually succeeds in reflecting the content, and makes for a worthwhile listening experience.

For the recording of this album Ohyama has gathered an impressive roster of talented musicians to complement his own remarkable skills. The result is a rich, well-rounded orchestral sound, with lots of variation within the same section to keep the listeners' attention alive. The natural flow and clarity of the music make the listening experience a real pleasure, even for those who are not particularly into instrumental albums. Moreover, each of the ten sections of the suite seems to have a sort of personality of its own that allows it to stand alone.

Opener Spirits immediately sets the tone, with a recurring main theme weaving in and out of the composition, and seamless interaction between the plentiful instruments. Some of the keyboard passages can bring to mind the trademark Canterbury sound, while the lilting sound of the glockenspiel provides an evocative, magical note. More Canterbury references crop up in Reincarnation, which also features some Spanish-flavoured, acoustic guitar licks, and Fountain, with its brisk, march-like drum pattern. The first half of the suite closes with the stunningly beautiful Woods, a stately piece richly woven with strands of violin, guitar and keyboards, as well as liberal sprinklings of sweetly chiming glockenspiel.

The keyboard-led Pilgrimage opens Part 2, followed by the beautiful Paradise - featuring some ethereal chanting, as well as the deep, mournful sound of the cello and the more uplifting ones of the recorder and the harpsichord. On the other hand, in Storm Asturias come very close to prog-metal territory (not surprisingly, given the title), opening with driving keyboards and guitar, then alternating gentler passages with more energetic ones. The album culminates with the majestic Soul Trees - a genuinely symphonic piece that gives equal space to every instrument, and a real delight for the dedicated prog fan - with lyrical, baroque strings, emotional lead guitar, lush keyboards, even the tinkling sound of bells. The gentle strains of Dawn, a long duet between piano and a beautifully clean-sounding guitar then bring the album to a perfect close.

"In Search of the Soul Trees" is sure to appeal to fans of well-crafted, skilfully played instrumental music with plenty of melody and atmosphere. Another excellent offering from the contemporary Japanese prog scene, and a solid 4-star rating.

Raff | 4/5 |


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