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Geinoh Yamashirogumi - Osorezan / Dou no Kenbai CD (album) cover


Geinoh Yamashirogumi



3.42 | 14 ratings

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3 stars This is another of those albums that I certainly never would have heard of had I not become a member of the Progarchives forums. Just as there are some true gems languishing in obscurity, however, there are also genuinely mediocre albums out there that are interesting but not a whole lot more.

It's a big risk to release an album with only two side-long tracks. On the one hand, it can end up being a conceptual masterpiece, but if one of the songs is subpar than half of the album ends up being tanked. Unfortunately, I have to argue that this is the case here: the first track is a bizarre but brilliant genre bender that shows that music can be incredibly experimental and still very listenable. The second, on the other hand, just doesn't have enough mass to sustain its 19 minute run-time. As a result, the album falls decidedly into the middle of the quality spectrum, half great and half "just ok."

"Osorezan" begins with a piercing scream which is followed up by some drum fills. After this an ambient synth part that is itself quickly replaced by extremely minimalistic bass accompanied by a group of ghostly voices. All of this, keep in mind, happens in under two minutes, and the result is that the track becomes very unsettling, lacking any kind of tether to the average listener's musical reference points but at the same time avoiding becoming straight noise. The next section in particular highlights this very well, with a brief, spacey guitar and synth part quickly becoming overwhelmed with the wailing of the same haunting vocals from earlier on in the track. Apparently the translation of "Osorezan" is "Mountain of Fear," which I think seems very fitting given that most of this music wouldn't sound out of place in a haunted house. In fact, though there are instruments present (most notably percussion), probably a good three quarters of the first half of the track are dominated by those voices: growling, wailing, and sometimes even screaming. However, at about the 9 minute mark the track begins to take on more recognizable musical traits, taking up a steady rhythm for the first time and including an extended guitar solo that I think would fit in comfortably on several fusion releases, and a sax solo as well. Somehow, though, the extremely experimental opening 9 minutes meshes pretty darn well with this latter section, managing to avoid sounding like two separate pieces of music that were just slammed together. In fact, when the voices make a return in the last quarter of the track it even gives the track a nice sense of harmony, as if the wandering spirits of the first half have found refuge in the order of the music. A very minimalistic but pretty conclusion ties the song together, and "Osorezan" ends up being a very satisfying piece of work, though a decidedly strange one.

"Dou no Kenbai" also begins with a scream, though this one is a bit less panicked than the one that began "Osorezan." This is followed up with some chanted vocals that create a similarly eerie feeling to the beginning of "Osorezan." The chants eventually change into an almost percussive a capella part over which a solo female vocalist delivers a sometimes folky, sometimes operatic and sometimes spoken word vocal line. Unfortunately, in my opinion this vocals only motif is taken too far- in fact, there are no instruments on the track except for some brief percussion. It's an interesting idea, but it lacks a lot of the intensity of the vocal parts in "Osorezan" and thus doesn't set up an atmosphere nearly as effectively. Additionally, despite its best effort I do feel the track gets a little bit repetitive: it simply seems there's not enough here to sustain an entire 19 minute track. When the entire piece is essentially composed of the same textures it does get a little old.

So this album is kind of a mixed bag for me. Osorezan is really an excellent piece of experimental music, blending styles and going places that most music doesn't, and doing it all with an impressive intensity. "Dou no Kenbai," on the other hand, while certainly no less inspired or forward thinking, in my opinion doesn't have enough material to fill the amount of space it wants to. Sections are certainly interesting but on the whole the track doesn't do too much for me. Unfortunately, since its 19 minutes take up nearly half the album, this doesn't do great things for the album from a holistic standpoint either. Definitely worth a listen but I don't see myself listening through the entire album again anytime soon.

2.5/5, rounded up for "Osorezan"

VanVanVan | 3/5 |


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