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Jade Warrior - Kites CD (album) cover


Jade Warrior


Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.27 | 74 ratings

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4 stars "What does the venerable sir do?"

Kites is recognizable as in the same series as its two predecessors, Floating World and Waves, but it is distinct from them in many ways. For one, it is more ragged and flows uneasily. There are the same signature movements between slow ambient and energetic pieces where the transitions are abrupt, as is expected. Dave Duhig does not appear at all, so the hard rock fire he usually brings is completely absent. This makes Kites more widely different than the earlier stage of the band's career. Since they do not rock, the more energetic pieces tend to be bright, even strident in places; distortion is replaced by pizzicato. The album is constructed as a series of short pieces, all interconnected. And since this was first released at the time of vinyl, the composition of the original two sides were split between both Jon Field and Tony Duhig, the two remaining full-time members of Jade Warrior.

Side one, Field's side, is more cohesive and features some of my favorite tracks on the album: Wind Song, which has the rhythmic element found in the earlier Island releases (Field is at least as much a percussionist as a flautist), and Airborn, which has a similar rhythmic ambience to it but with a more pronounced highlighting of flutes and Guitar. These two tracks are also the most reminiscent of the sound they have established with their label.

It is impossible to separate the remaining seven tracks from one another. Even though the pieces are all short (only one passes the four minute mark while another doesn't even make it to one), they come as a whole. It is this side that makes Kites both the most elaborate of all of Jade Warrior's and one of my least favorite. It is here that we get the most striking contrasts between the lively and the ambient. The music is often exceedingly beautiful, but the individual tracks are either not long enough or coherent enough for the listener the truly get into their moods. Yet this is prime Jade Warrior. The concept of the warrior-poet, depicted so iconically on the cover of floating world, is most apparent here, for there is a clear theme found in the titles of the pieces themselves. We are hearing an encounter between the warrior poet and the emperor, or something like that, on a river bank. The music has an organic sound to it, even with the extensive use of electric instruments. Again, Field and Duhig are using instruments to convey the sounds they wish to express with whatever instrumentation that will express them the best. The finale, The Last Question, represents the Jade Warrior vision in micro form.

The title, Kites, reflects the Jon Field tracks most directly, but the Duhig section also conveys the notion of the kite. To understand this, we have to understand that kites are not merely a child's activity, nor a game. In Japan, kites were used for many purposes included celebrations, festivals, and consecration of temples. Traditionally, there are many different styles with many different meanings. In other words, the kite of traditional Japan is used much like a flag in modern days. The most important of those aspects here are the consecration of temples, especially in Duhig's section. The meeting, the conversation, has a sacred element to it. The expression of wisdom may be gentle, or ambient in the case of this music, or it can be jarring in both positive and negative ways. We often use the phrase 'mind-blowing' when introduced to a thought that expands our understanding in a surprising manner; conversely, we can also gain wisdom that is disturbing. The mind is the kite, when set aloft with no control or discipline, its flight will end in disaster; no matter how magnificent the flight may be, it will crash and splinter. However, the kite that is controlled, the mind that is disciplined for a purpose, will be guided in its flight, convey beauty, and will be brought back home safely.

Even though it can be a difficult listen, Kites is perhaps the penultimate Jade Warrior. The concepts which underlie the band's music are not merely presented in the individual pieces of the album, but the album itself in its entirety represents those concepts. Challenging, yet rewarding, is the most concise way to describe it. Take that as an invitation. Or a warning. Will the kite of your own mind be chaotic or disciplined in the listening? More than likely a combination of the two. Whether you crash or soar is up to you.

Progosopher | 4/5 |


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