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Hiro Yanagida - Hirocosmos CD (album) cover

HIROCOSMOS

Hiro Yanagida

Psychedelic/Space Rock


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octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars When I got this album I was expecting to hear Japanese psychedelia in the mood of Far East Family Band. This is not. I was happily surprised to discover a Jazzy-Canterbury album, with some tracks very close to early Camel, and the surprise is bigger if we think that the release year is 1973, the same year of Camel's debut.

"The Sea of Tempest" is a relaxing instrumental with a jazzy interlude in the middle. It's followed by a sax-driven track: "Ode to Taurus" that's a progressive-jazz piece. In interlude of the track the excellent keyboards of Hiro Yanagida replace the sax. When the sax is back, it's jazz-fusion until the end.

The story doesn't change with the following track: "Breaking Sound-Barrier". Another excellent jazz track for bass, drums and a fantastic piano, then a clean jazz-guitar solo . No more Canterbury here, just jazz-fusion. Some keyboard sounds backgrounding the guitar solo add a spacey touch to the track, then the instruments stop leaving the keyboard alone. A jazz coda closes the track.

"Happy Cruise" starts on percussion and Santana-like guitar. When it calmes down it's like Latimer and Bardens are playing in the band. Only Camel explored this kind of soft-jazz in the late 70s, some years after Hiro. After the spacey section, it's again jazz with bass, drums and Fender piano. A tempo slow-down then back to Santana. What a track!

"Rockomotion" starts with bass and keyboard. It makes me think to the jazz moments of Caravan's Waterloo Lily. In the Caravan's album they are only "moments". The guitar solo is incredibly good and moves the track to the funky side.

"Uncertain Trip" is a trip. You can hear Camel in the beginning and ELP in the following...but it's just Hiro Yanagida. This is the most "progressive rock" track of the album. I think the tempo is 5/4, but with cats you can never say for sure. In the final the tracks fades out and the coda returns to the beginning, with acoustic guitar and sax.

The closing track "Time for Reverie" starts very quietly with electric piano and sax. Bass and drums are in the background. This makes me think to Scott Cossu, an american newage- jazz pianist who explored this kind of music in the 80s.

Hiro Yanagida, at least in this album, was in advance with his times. The album doesn't have any weak moment and has the right to have its place in any prog collection.

4+ stars

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Send comments to octopus-4 (BETA) | Report this review (#294816)
Posted Tuesday, August 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
Guldbamsen
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Site and Forum Admin
4 stars Japanese sword fighting and earl grey

The first album I bought from Hiro Yanagida was his excellent Milk Time, which was a fantastic psych album with all kinds of spacey assets put there to rearrange your poor brain. Hirocosmos, on the other hand, is what I would call a jazzy Canterbury album. Yep, I know Canterbury is a town in England where this rather silly and playful style with bands like The Wild Flowers and The Soft Machine originated. Even so, some of my favourite albums of the style has things like made in Italy or made in Holland written on the back of them...

Albeit with a hefty dosage of jazz incorporated into the flow of things, Hirocosmos sees Yanagida opening his psychedelic keyboard licks up to a quirkier touch - and somehow it feels like these aspects were always there in his playing. I know I personally had to put on Milk Time again just to make sure, that I wasn´t completely gone fishing, and though part of me always is, - I was absolutely right! On this album he simply decided to let his love of jazz shine through, and let me tell you straight away: this guy is up there with the best of them - be that in the keyboards department, mellotron swamps, moog havens or piano resorts - he masters all of them with exceptional skill and ingenuity. I especially adore his work on the synthesizers on Hirocosmos. He uses them very similarly to the manner in which Caravan simplified the solos and sort of kneaded them into the main melody. Sometimes they sound like a futuristic elevator swooping up to the 32.000nd floor - WUUUUUIIIIIIIHHHHHHH, however still retaining an unparalleled gift of flow and juice. The synths reach for the heavens whilst firmly planted deep within the rest of the music

Underneath these terrific lifts of sound, you are treated to everything from low key and pensive piano leaded grooves to blistering fast paced keyboard runs that fall over each other, only to be stopped by the enormous wall of mellotrons, saying " You´d better slow down boy - smoke a doobie, catch your breath and watch the skies for a minute or so". And you know what? Those instruments really listen to one another. (Good thing too, as I wouldn´t dream of the horrors in store, if poor Hiro by some weird shift of faith, altered his persona every time he changed instrument).

Behind the master wizard lurks one of the greatest backing bands, I ´ve heard in quite a while. Swarfega! The drummer sounds like a fusion mix of Bruford, Wyatt and Palmer - tight and meaty like a venus cave, and still he manages to be wild in all the right places, punching out of the stereotypic jazz mould - punishing his kit with some well placed rhythmic karate hits. He´s always a minuscule beat in front of the remaining band, which adds a charismatic and original feel to the music. The only other drummer I can think of who does this, is actually Charlie Watts.

Several times during Hirocosmos a saxophone drops in to say hello. It tells us, that it is about time we headed over to England and Canterbury for a cup of tea. It shares a lot of facets with its brethren from these parts, and just like the other instruments here, it never outstays its welcome. It pops up, sings its tune, and zips away in a hurry. It´s much the same story with the small breaks of flute whistling, though they are far softer and effervescent in nature. Both wind instruments are kind to the different tunes on here and intervene purposefully, when these are in need of something lofty, quirky or comfy.

Keeping it real - pushing the music back towards the early psychedelic lands of Yanagida´s earlier albums, is guitarist Masayoshi Takanaka, who strikes me as one hell of a guy. I mean, if the guy can cuddle with his instrument like that, how is he like at a bar-desk with peanuts and ale? Journeying ferociously in between 2 completely different worlds of sound, he both masters the clean picking jazzy rides that sprinkle some of the more laid back sections of Hirocosmos, but when the time calls for it, he eats a dinner-plate full of habañeros and lava and sweeps the listener of of his feet, and takes him deep within a realm of ethereal beauty and soulful lingering sounds. He is truly a captivating musician, who apparently always knows which way the wind blows - and acts accordingly to boot. You want glistening stars conveyed in tones, then have some.

People who enjoy the eccentricities of National Health, Egg, Matching Mole, Quiet Sun, Soft Heap, and then could imagine these dipped in some spicy wasabi - served up with a side dish of raw tuna and sake - by all means: Go get the next best thing to right arms! 4.5 stars.

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Send comments to Guldbamsen (BETA) | Report this review (#584873)
Posted Thursday, December 08, 2011 | Review Permalink

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