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Far East Family Band - Nipponjin CD (album) cover

NIPPONJIN

Far East Family Band

Psychedelic/Space Rock


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5 stars When I first heard this album I wasn't sure what I was listening to. Tangerine Dream and Pink Floyd were my first guesses at the band's identity but somehow there was something else there that just didn't fit in. Thus I discovered the Far East Family Band and the very talented keyboardist (and future new age composer) Kitaro. I am glad I did!

This album contains re-mastered and re-recorded tracks of their eponymous previous (1973) album under the name of Far Out (without Kitaro) and the ambience and serenity that fills the atmosphere makes it really remarkable. Not much in the vocals department but I doubt if this will upset anyone at all. The long title track "Nipponjin" and the following "The Cave" are probably the highlights of the album without this going to say that the remaining tracks are by any means inferior of fillers. Frankly I think it would be difficult to select a favourite track on this album, all the tracks have a beauty of their own and as far as musicians go, these guys are an example of talent personified. Not surprisingly, both Fumio Miya[&*!#]a and Kitaro went on to well-deserved stardom.

Highly recommended!

Costas Giannakenas (NucDoc)

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Send comments to NucDoc (BETA) | Report this review (#28090)
Posted Friday, February 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
Proghead
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars FAR EAST FAMILY BAND is one of the pioneering prog bands to emerge out of Japan. Several musicians who later made careers of themselves by releasing New Age albums in the 1980s were members of this band. They were Fumio Miya[&*!#]a, Akira Ito, and most of all, Masanori Takahashi, which most of you don't know by that name, but by the name of Kitaro. Other band members included guitarist Hirohito Fukushima, bassist Akira Fukakusa, and drummer Shizuo Takasaki. Fumio Miya[&*!#]a was previously with a band called FAR OUT (which many just simply regard as another FEFB album, even if only Fumio Miya[&*!#]a was the only person in common with both bands). Now, if you're expecting the music of FAR EAST FAMILY BAND to be more cheesy New Age, throw that thought at the window. FAR EAST FAMILY BAND is pretty much to KITARO what VANGELIS was to APHRODITE'S CHILD, that is, these bands music are much more rock oriented than the careers these keyboardists later pursued in the 1970s and '80s. "Nipponjin", with the subtitle of Join Our Mental Phase Sound is the second album from FAR EAST FAMILY BAND. Basically these songs are remakes of stuff from "The Cave - Down to the Earth" and the FAR OUT album. The album starts off with the title track, which sounds exactly like the original, but with added on synthesizers and Mellotron (and if you ever heard the FAR OUT original, you'll noticed how effective that song is without the synths and Mellotron). The music starts of with spacy electronic effects, synthesizers, and electric sitar. Mellotron is used as well, then the music kicks in to a wonderful ballad, with drug oriented lyrics. After a few minutes, the ballad is over, and kicks in to a wonderful guitar jam. After a couple minutes, the music slows down once again, with the electric sitar once again. Then the song ends with chanting in "Om", with some chanting in Japanese as well. The next song, "The Cave" is more the style of FAR EAST FAMILY BAND. Most of the music is sung in English, but the more intense passage has Fumio Miya[&*!#]a singing in Japanese. "Undiscovered Northern Land" sounds like something Klaus SCHULZE might do, with the big exception of the Mellotron and bamboo flute (SCHULZE did produce the album, but did not play on it, and the album was recorded in Japan). "Timeless" is one of the more rocking numbers on this album. "The God of Water" is simply an ambient piece, that segues in to the ballad "River of Soul". Several more pieces segue in to each other, before the final piece, "Mystery of Northern Space". First few listens, I hated this piece, but it started to grow on me. It is more dramatic than the rest, and it also has some strings. But in light of that, I'm glad to say it's nowhere as bad as that wretched "Four Minds" off The Cave: Down to the Earth. Although an excellent album, and this pretty much demonstrates what FAR EAST FAMILY BAND is about, their following album, "Parallel World" blows "Nipponjin" (and everything else they did) out of the water, still "Nipponjin" is recommended.

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Send comments to Proghead (BETA) | Report this review (#28089)
Posted Sunday, May 02, 2004 | Review Permalink
philippe
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Content Development & Krautrock Team
4 stars This band is actually classified in art rock in the archives and I must admit that is totally out of place. The music of this Japanese band has its roots in psychedelic space rock. It deserves an obvious comparison with German "kosmische musik" lead by Ashra tempel, Klaus Schulze and many others. The first side is the original "Nipponjin" release with its grandiose title track. "Nipponjin" directly opens the album in an impressive manner. Some molecular noises, cymbals are floating like waves and sitar chords announce the departure to an other planet. A very eloquent "cosmic" trip which finally goes (for the best) into a "plaintive" spacey rock ballad dominated by melodic voices, electronic noises, linear synth notes and acoustic guitar riffs. The lead guitar break is frankly emotional, really intense stuff. "The Cave" is an other fascinating composition, starting with electronic experimentations, pursuing into a groovy, bluesy rock song with nice Floydian's organ passages (the opening theme of "Needles"). The second side of the album is only made of unreleased tracks. "Undiscovered Northern Land" is a rather discreet, abstract soundscape, presented as an interlude. "Timeless" is a typical Far East composition; a dynamic spacey rock meeting a vibrant Asian felt in the voice and the groove. "The god of water" is an other atmospheric interlude for electronic effects. "River of soul" provides a rather similar exciting psych voyage that we can hear in "The Cave". The last three tracks are maybe the less interesting compositions, softer in a sense. "Mystery of Northern Space" mixes an inspired melodic floating rock with the psychedelic edge of the Pink Floyd. A nice rock'n roll exploration throw infinite times and foreign spaces.

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Send comments to philippe (BETA) | Report this review (#81560)
Posted Tuesday, June 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Very interesting album, intensely spiritual and psychedelic, the melodies in the first side are very catchy, the first time i listened to it i fell enchanted with the tunes, the most of the album it seems to me like improvisations very well executioned, specially recommended for those fans of world music and bands like Pink Floyd, german psych scene, and of course Kitaro.

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Send comments to pepefloyd (BETA) | Report this review (#104672)
Posted Wednesday, December 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars FAR EAST FAMILY BAND play a spacey, laid back style of music with English vocals.This band was originally called FAR OUT and put out one self-titled album out under that name. Actually that excellent record consisted of two side long suites.The first song on this album was originally on the FAR OUT album but has been changed a little, mostly by adding mellotron and synths to it, as mentioned in Proghead's review. I must say i do prefer the original. Even though there is some good guitar on this version, the original really featured some amazing guitar melodies. Most of the other songs on this record were originally on their first album called "The Cave- Down To Earth" that was produced by Klaus Schulze.

"Nipponjin" is almost 17 minutes long and is the epic on this album. It features spacey synths, mellotron, Eastern sounds, vocals, and some excellent guitar work. This is a very good song with plenty of mood and tempo changes. "The Cave" opens with the sound of wind and other various sounds before vocals and organ arrive. There is a change after 3 minutes and it really reminds me of PINK FLOYD. Actually "Dark Side Of The Moon" comes to mind often on these first two tracks. Six minutes in were back to the vocal / organ melody. "Undiscovered Northern Land" features spacey sounds with no melody and mellotron after 2 minutes. "Timeless" has a good instrumental interlude part way through with some steller guitar. "The God Of Water" is 2 minutes of spacey winds.

"River Of Soul" is a change of pace as acoustic guitar and flute are featured. Mellotron and some great guitar after 4 and 6 minutes. "The God Of Wind" has some fast paced percussion as well as some Eastern sounds and spacey synths.This song blends into "Movin' Lookin'" as vocals come in, and the last 30 seconds are a real toe tapper. This blends into "Yamato" which continues the toe tapping music. Haha. The final track "Mystery Of Northern Space" is my favourite along with the opening song.This one has some Gilmour-like guitar to open and even the vocals remind me of a FLOYD song. Organ and heavy drums come in too.

This is a good record but I would suggest getting FAR OUT's only release from 1973 then the follow-up to this album i'm reviewing called "Parallel World". I really feel those two albums are of that same Krautrock spirit while this one is different, more FLOYD-like and a step down.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#133160)
Posted Wednesday, August 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars This is my second taste of FEFB and was a surprise.

There are not the krautrock athmospheres of parallel words. The album opens with a long song whose introduction is folky (in the Japanese sense) but later turns to Floydian when the singing arrives. The 3rd part of this quite epic song has a good even if not exceptional guitar riff. I think "not exceptional" is because Gilmour would have been perfect on this base. Good because it is psychedelic/bluesy enough, at least for my tastes. Some gimmicks "a la Vangelis" contribute to the track's mood. Acoustic string instruments (a sitar? a japanese folk instrument?) take the place of the guitar and this is another section. The "folky" part proceeds until singing is back. This part makes me think to Uriah Heep or to early Eloy, even if the tempo is, of course, slower. All this is NIPPONJIN.

THE CAVE starts with "winds" and keyboard. I was expecting to hear the bass of Set the controls of the heart of the sun...well, it's not that song, but should FEFB perform it in Pompeii nobody will say it's a scandal. The keyboard parts, in particular, are very close to Richard Wright's sounds. The second part of the song is driven by bass and drums. it's a completely different song. A descendant sequence of bass notes reminds clearly to Astronomy domine, even if the guitar part could have been used as soundtrack for a western movie. The last two minutes are again different. They are now very close to Eloy, also in the sound.

The B side of the vynil starts with 3 minutes of Krautrock. You can stil hear Japanese melodies (the flute), but if you told me that this was a Tangerine Dream's song I would have believed. This is called UNDISCOVERED NORTHERN LAND. Effectively, if you think to the track's title, it gives you the idea. This fades into FATELESS. Also this appears to be Floydian, but I hear some reminds to Italian prog. Probably just a coincidence even if RPI is quite appreciated in Japan.

THE GOD OF WATER is a short interlude followed by RIVER OF SOUL. This is a typical Kitaro song. I like Kitaro also in his newage most recent shape, so I really like this relaxing track.

Another two minutes interlude, THE GOD OF WIND, then MOVIN LOOKIN and YAMATO.Very short tracks but withsomething to say. They are short because they have to be so. There's a touch of Canterbury here (Caravan).

Finally MISTERY OF NORTHERN SPACE is another very enjoyable Floydian track. Please note that when I say Floydian, I don't mean that they are copying. They are probably inspired and influenced, but their music is original. 4.5 stars really.

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Send comments to octopus-4 (BETA) | Report this review (#285561)
Posted Tuesday, June 08, 2010 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The archetype of space prog. A lofty title for a virtually unknown Japanese sextet.

NIPPONJIN has every element you want out of a psychedelic prog effort; loads of mellotron, lots of jamming, a few buzzing lead guitar figures, stable rhythm section and long epic pieces. NIPPONJIN has all of these but also has a few small transitions that merely stall for the next big song. There are five major songs here; the title epic, ''The Cave'', ''Timeless'', ''River of Soul'' and ''Mystery of Northern Space''.

''Nipponjin'' the epic is the major highlight of the album as the speed and dynamics of the piece vary throughout. It is the final theme that is the most captivating as it is as intense as the album will get. ''Timeless'' has a distinguishable guitar line and the vocal figures of the ''The Cave'' hit the right spots. Unfortunately, this has to be one of the worst produced albums I've ever heard; the production is all over the place with ''River of Soul'' sounding like the inside of a urinal.

If you haven't had enough of a psychedelic fix, come here if you can get your hands on it. It lacks power that Nektar and Eloy have, but good enough of a psych/prog album to be kept in the back of your mind.

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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#297324)
Posted Friday, September 03, 2010 | Review Permalink
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 Ó 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".

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Send comments to Einsetumadur (BETA) | Report this review (#505594)
Posted Friday, August 19, 2011 | Review Permalink

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