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Far East Family Band - Nipponjin CD (album) cover

NIPPONJIN

Far East Family Band

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.59 | 49 ratings

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Einsetumadur
Prog Reviewer
2 stars 4.5/15P.: a somewhat boring Pink Floyd copy with many Mellotrons and guitar ballads which doesn't flatline due to the Pink Floyd cloning, but due to a lack of energy and authenticity

To be honest, I'm utterly disappointed by this album. This is an album which was mixed by Klaus Schulze and on which three persons play keyboards (one of them is Kitaro, whose New Age records I enjoy quite a lot). Perhaps the music is intense and captivating at a wavelength that I do not get, but merely 5 or 6 minutes fascinate me. The rest is utter boredom.

You might ask yourself why I judge that drastically about this record, especially regarding the mostly positive reviews here. Well, the key problem - in my opinion - is (as always) that there is more style than substance here. In fact, the band desperately wants to be Pink Floyd, but copying Pink Floyd's sound is a hazardous affair, and this attempt went horribly wrong.

In fact, the album consists of a) slow ballads with predictable chord progressions, bad English vocals and worn-out guitar solos and b) short Kitaro pieces with atmospheric sounds. And each piece is pervaded by these awful chirping synthesizer sounds. I don't object to chirping synthesizer sounds, but it's the same sound which appears in nearly every song, and it must have sounded horribly dated even in 1975. The whole attitude reminds me quite a lot of German psychedelic rock la Eloy, but there are just too few moments that are satisfying.

The album begins with Nipponjin, the 18 minutes long title track, and it actually starts out fine with the aforementioned chirping noises, electric sitar and a slow floor tom rhythm: nothing special, but (as in Close to the Edge) promising. After three minutes or so we move into a slow 4/4 ballad (one of many), stuffed with Mellotron strings and with accent-laden, but at that point still listenable vocals. In fact it's a nice vocals melody which rescues the whole affair. Inbetween we get a guitar solo which is really decent, but when the vocals enter again that strange accent cannot be ignored. Why didn't they sing everything in Japanese? It would be more authentic and a more exotic experience to listen to it. Nonetheless this part has a certain charme, especially at the places when the vocals are double-tracked. Yes, the first 7 minutes are guite okay, but from this moment on things deteriorate: guitar noodling on a one-chord-background, chirping sounds and more chirping sounds, leading into a pointless Mellotron break. Nice sounds, but with no direction. The end of the piece resembles the blues rock part of Pink Floyd's "Echoes", but adds a Japanese mantra. This is not a bad idea, but the music is so unexciting. The few seconds solo Mellotron in the end are at least a well-done ending.

The Cave is not too different: Hammond organs in the vein of Rick Wright, but to a funkier rhythm. The middle part goes into a fast rhythm which is close to creating a dense sound (including a sweet Moog solo), but I miss the authenticity and straightforward "psychedelia in your face" attitude of, for instance, German Krautrock bands. The Far East Family Band is too diffident in what it does.

Kitaro delivers three electronic miniatures here. Undiscovered Northern Land could be my favorite piece on this record since it really creates its own sonic world. The Asian bamboo flute appears as a lead instruments, accompanied by creepy Mellotron choirs, wind sounds and other keyboards. The God Of Water has the same wind sounds, but nothing happens here except for some guitar notes in the background which sound like they have reached the master tape via leakage of a malfunctioning tape machine. The God of Wind features a fast drum rhythm and one Hammond organ chord which is sustained through the whole piece. It ends where it has started and, er, that's it - again.

The remaining two miniatures can be regarded as the intro to Mystery of Northern Space, the intended final epic of the album. Movin' Lookin' is, essentially, recitation of solemn words, heavy with meaning, with lots of chirping sounds again whilst Yamato is most annoying with obtrusive 'wa wa wawawa' vocals. Mystery of Northern Space finally is another guitar-heavy ballad with soaring guitars, and the standard chord progression (A-G-F-E) is maintained from the first to the last second. A small string section in the end brings slight diversification, but cannot change the fact that the piece lacks substance.

Timeless is uninteresting in a different way: no standard chord progressions here, but rather a standard blues riff. Okay, Mellotron strings from time to time add some texture, but nothing's happening in this piece either.

River of Soul (E-G-A-E, for those who want to jam along with the piece), one of the longer tracks on this album, is slightly better. The bamboo flute is present again and the Mellotron choirs are a pleasant listen, as well. Of course, the composition isn't really stunning, but this is the only piece which is perfectly listenable from the beginning to the end, including some beautiful moments that raise a little smile when you listen to it.

Don't get me wrong: I listen to quite a lot of music, and there are even certain David Guetta pieces which I like quite a lot, and David Guetta pieces are 100% bland in terms of chord progressions. But when the chords aren't too elaborate, the songs need to have a great arrangement, or a good melody, or something different which grabs my attention. "Careful With That Axe Eugene" has just one chord, and in spite of this every second captivates me fully. But this album simply lacks inspiration, at least in my opinion. Actually, the source of (good) music should be the musician himself, his thoughts/feelings/etc, music should be authentic self-expression - and he shouldn't care if the musical idea which he has in a certain moment sounds like his idol or doesn't. This album leers at the British psychedelic rock scene all the way through - but forgets to cast a spell on the listener. Since there are many people who appreciate this album very much I apprehend that it's most probably me who doesn't get the music, but there's too little going on in a time of nearly 55 minutes. So, not more than 2 stars due to the many boring moments, and (in turn) not less than 2 stars because of the pleasant moments in "Nipponjin", "Undiscovered Northern Land" and "River of Soul".

Einsetumadur | 2/5 |

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