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Hiromi Uehara - Hiromi's Sonicbloom: Time Control CD (album) cover


Hiromi Uehara


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.27 | 266 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Modern Jazz-Rock/Fusion is the true progressive music movement of its time. It makes no compromises, leaves no stone unturned, and never panders to its audience. You're either in or you're out. As of this review's writing (July 2010), that trend is showing no sign of letting up. If you want a good example of what real Prog is these days, pick up a Fusion record like this one. You'll laugh hysterically at how so many DT and Yes sound-alike groups are being recognized as the 'new' movement in the prog scene, when all of the actual progression is happening right here in artists such as Hiromi Uehara.

When I first saw a photograph of the undoubtedly beautiful keyboardist, I honestly thought she played pop music. That was my idiotic mistake. I judged by looks before ever hearing a single note of her music. Somewhere along the way (especially in US culture) it became a general consensus that attractive people don't make 'serious' art, while average-looking folks are the true hard workers. It's a very ugly attitude to hold, and I found myself guilty of outwardly displaying it in this case as I visibly did a double-take after seeing this woman in action for the first time. She's incredibly skilled, and what's more, she writes great music.

My previous paragraph was not intended as a slight to the Pop genre at all, but rather the 'popular' music of the time. We currently live in an era that ostracizes quality from quantity in a way I'm not sure has ever been more severe. Much more time is spent in selling faces and merchandise than the music itself. Pop music as a genre has its strengths and its weaknesses, and the best of it will always survive. But the concept of good-looks and bad music being mutually exclusive is something I often fall victim to, so i wanted to take the time to apologize to Ms. Uehara for my initial (and wrong) reaction to her image.

Back to the music. This is Hiromi's fourth studio album, and it's being played as an ensemble titled ''Hiromi's Sonicbloom''. Cutesy. The album starts off with the absolutely phenomenal ''Time Difference''. It's a track that begins with some classically-tinged lone piano, and soon David Fuze's guitar comes in and joins the piano. These two instruments carry on in unison until the rest of the band breaks in, and the song truly takes off. The marriage of technical prowess and musical passion is so perfect, mere words couldn't begin to do it justice. Just listen to the song yourself (The live version is even better!). Hiromi makes some great use of synthesized keys, here. Gives the whole thing a very otherworldly feel.

''Time Out'' might be my favorite track on this recording, but all o the pieces are equally great and so different from each other, it would honestly be unfair for me to make that claim seriously. All you really need to know is that it was with this track that I started really feeling the groove of the band for the first time. Much Jazzier and experimental than the previous work, it will send motions through your body whether or intended to dance or not. Where as synths were in more of a starring role in the first song, the focus here is mainly on the clean, no-hold-barred Jazz piano. The entire band is so tight here, but special props go to David Fuze for adding a very Space/Funk kind of vibe about a third of the way through and to Hiromi for playing the hell out of the piano all throughout the track. Without her crazy rhythms and technical skill, the song would certainly have not been the same. Martin Valihora really starts to shine on this track, also.

The next track, ''Time Travel'', has some truly awesome spacey soundscapes thanks to Uehara and Fuze's blend of bluesy guitar leads and ethereal keyboards. Soon enough, though, Valihora chimes in with some killer drum work, and the song really begins to take off. Some really fantastic guitar-piano unisons happen, here. The drums really do a fantastic job of keeping all the madness tight and together, while taking the time to impress as well. A crazy lead by Fuze comes in close to three minutes in and doesn't relent until nearly a whole minute later. Then the real wondrous moments happen thanks to Uehara and her distorted, funky keyboards; chugging away with so many odd rhythms and push-pull tempos, it's commendable how well the other instruments are able to keep up. Six minutes into the track, and the spine-tingling rhythmic riddles are still going strong. A truly wild and frantic track, all while still being able to make some sort of sense and never losing the listener. A few more unisons from Hiromi and David, then everything calms down once again at around seven minutes and sixteen seconds. The musical ideas introduced in the brief intro is resumed, carrying out the rest of the track. An amazing thing to hear.

''Deep Into The Night'' is the longest track on the record, and starts out with some fantastic smooth Jazz stylings before lunging into the most beautiful piano work of the album for me. Some of it fast, some of it slow and reserved, but all of it is very melodic and musical in nature. Fear not, however. The work on this song still remains very experimental and freeform; things just happen to be a little more chill and contemplative on this go-round. Much like with the first track, I don't really know what more I could say to send the point home anymore. I love the song, that's the bottom line. It's lovely. Get the album and hear for yourself how truly wonderful it is. That's all I can really say. The most melodically beautiful song this entire work has to offer.

''Real Clock vs. Body Clock = Jet Lag'' is not only the most cleverly-named song on the disc, but it is also the most musically representative of that name. There is a lot of push & pull in the tempos, and you truly feel like you're being pushed through time zones to the point of exhaustion. Don't worry, it's not the equivalent of listener's fatigue; just a lot of fun. Some ragtime piano and out of this world slide and wah guitar are found bridging the gaps between the madness. A fun and original little piece, but perhaps not as memorable as most others to be found on Time Control.

''Time and Space'' sends the listener back into the traditional Jazz influences of the album, and boy does it groove! Hiromi is on top of hr game here with all the staple Jazz chords and flourishes brilliantly placed and executed on her instrument. I realize I haven't mentioned Tony Grey's bass playing yet. Well, he's brilliant, as well. He is very noticeable on this particular track, and even when the sci-fi style signal noises start coming in from time to time, his influence on the track is always audible. This is a very calm, laid-back track with some spacey additions. Pretty unique, but that's a redundant statement on an album such as this. Saying any more would ruin the listening experience, surely. Just know that it's cool and smooth.

The song which could be referred to as the album's title track kicks off immediately with a type of controlled chaos only a master keyboardist like Hiromi could pull off. Once things calm down a bit, Grey breaks in with some tasty leads. He's no Victor Wooten in my book, but bass players who do lead work are certainly more capable than most 'traditional' players from the Rock realm. Newcomers to Jazz and Fusion music may find this a little startling at first, but Metal fans should already be used to the concept, at least a little. But it isn't just Grey taking the show for very long. The whole band comes in very soon, and Valihora does some of his best drum work on the record. Around the five minute mark, the piano becomes thick and groovy, with a bebop sort of attitude showing through the classically-inclined playing chops. Soon the frantic attitude is heard again from Hiromi, and David Fuze soon follows suit with some impressive lead guitar work. Hiromi is fantastic at backing up her band members, as well. She's more than just a lead-heavy show-off. She is great with simpler, rhythm-based riffs the serve as the foundation for the other instruments to shine to their full potential. A little after seven minutes in, the single reason for owning this album arrives. I cannot describe how it moves me, only that it does, very much. This leads into an incredible, drum-filled outro which brings the entire track to a sudden, memorable halt.

''Time Flies''. Hey, hasn't a much more well-known artist on PA recently released a song of the same title? Never mind, this ''Time Flies'' is much more original and inspired than the one Wilson and company stitched together (primarily using the tracks from Pink Floyd's Animals for the pieces). This feels like a gorgeous 'ballad' of sorts. Full of heart and genuine artistic flourish, it is the second song on this release that uses melody much more traditionally than the others, yet remains free and open to go in any direction it likes. Martin Valihora's light, musical touch on his kit really adds some great atmosphere to the overall piece. Truly terrific on all fronts, this track. Laying more 'Mood Jazz' strokes to this already-overwhelming piece of sound-painting, it is a cut on the album absolutely not to be missed.

''Time's Up'' may be the shortest track on the album (not even a full minute in length), yet it is one of the most exciting. The whole thing begins to build into what would undoubtedly be a memorable musical occurrence, when suddenly everything halts an an official-sounding voice utters the words "Time's up!", to which some indistinct studio chatter and last minute plinking of piano keys can be heard from a distance. The album ends on a promising note, ending with something of a question. What could have come from that initial rush of musical bliss? Perhaps someday in the future, we will find out.

It was suggested in a previous review that this album is accessible almost to the point where it lacks originality. While those were not the exact words used, I just want to take a moment and respectfully disagree. The music on Time Control may not be as 'out-there' as some other works in this genre floating around today, but it is no less inspired or forward-thinking. Plenty of experimentation is happening here, and I would put Hiromi Uehara up there with the current leaders of progressive music today. No, I don't mean 'Prog Rock', I mean any music that cares more about originality and individuality than genre or class.

To me, this is an essential piece. It's essential for more than one reason, but mainly, it is essential for demonstrating just how bright the future of music still is. I've gotten sick of syrupy keyboards and overly-long attempts at recreating the golden days of prog by modern day hacks. The era of Close to the Edge is over, and no self-respecting artist would even want to bring it back, I don't think. Music, like all art, must move forward in order to stay honest and interesting. A dishonest artist merely tries to recreate something he loved in the past. A truthful artist attempts to press musical evolution forward. If that individual succeeds, even a little bit, he or she should be commended and advertised as often as possible. I proposed to you at the beginning of this review that such artists can be found in modern Jazz music. In tomorrow's world, that may change. For now, however, I only see true creativity in musicians who dare to do absolutely anything they want, and I wholeheartedly believe that Hiromi Uehara is an artist who does just that. She makes music for the sake of music, nothing else. It's art in its purest, most honest form. This album is essential listening for people like me, who grow tired of all the copycats in todays supposed 'progressive' music world. If you are indeed like me in that regard, you absolutely must give this woman's music a try. Who knows, you may just start believing in music again.

Tell your friends. Music is not dead.

JLocke | 5/5 |


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