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Ain Soph - Hat And Field CD (album) cover


Ain Soph

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars It took 6 years for Ain Soph to finally record this amazing follow-up to their equally amazing debut album. The original lineup 90 (the band was formed in '77) was fully incorporated, since drummer Tomiie and keyboardist Fujikawa rejoined their former fellows (they had left before Ain Soph's debut was recorded). Some of the material already existed during the old days, so basically 'Hat & Field' is like a groups of four musician friends catching up. The title shows one of their major influences, Hatfield and the North: since these guys are really Canterbury freaks, it's no wonder that we can also find the inheritance of other similar acts such as National Health and Gilgamesh, as well as 'Rain Dances'-era Camel. The most explosive moments show the clear influence of Return to Forever and Holdsworth's solo albums. The playing is superb: not only each individual is a top-notch master on their instrument, but also they can interpleay with immaculate fluency through all these complex time signatures and complicated compositions, keeping an aura of delicate sophistication, as if it were actually an easy task to do. The moments in which Yozox and Fujikawa lay their challenging interplays are executed with infinite finesse. As in their previous album, the appearance of some exotic lines reminds the listener of their Japanese essence: their jazzy prog is not a clone, but the result of an inventively idiosyncratic recreation of an established pattern. There is a subtle difference, though: 'Hat & Field' puts a major emphasis on the jazz factor, subduing the symphonic thing for that matter. The beautiful opening track 'Swan Lake' is really captivating: through its tasteful delicateness, it has a subtle energy in it that makes it catchy. 'Hat & Field', the namesake suite, starts the same way, until an explosion of pyrotechnics takes place during its last section: this explosion is effectively continued in the glued following track 'Mizzle'. 'Magic Carpet' and 'Pipe Dream' follow in the same vein as the opening number, while tracks 2, 5 and 7 work as relaxing interludes, which create an introspective, slightly melancholy mood. Lovers of Canterbury and the best 70s jazz-fusion will most likely love this one too, and eventually, discover the particular beauty of Ain Soph's own jazz-prog voice.

Report this review (#629)
Posted Saturday, June 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Released 6 years after Ain Soph's 1980 debut "A Story of Mysterious Forest", which had little to offer besides outstanding technical performance, "Hat and Field" was definitely a step in the right direction, with the instrumental band focused on creating effective, memorable compositions far more so than previously. This results in the album being even more reminiscent of Camel and Canterbury (the album title is apparently a reference to Hatfield and the North) artists, but the fushion side of the band is still represented equally well via jazz harmonies and the plentiful solo excursions. The latter tendency also shows the band hasn't mellowed out on the performance front: guitarist Yozox shows no signs of tendonitis as he frequently blazes away his Al di Meola-esque shred lines, and new (well, old apparently) keyboardist Kikuo Fujikawa, though seemingly a bit less interested in acoustic piano than his predecessor, is a welcome addition as another fleet- fingered keyboard guru; the rhythm section once again provides very capable performances. Most importantly, however, the quality of the compositions is higher than on the debut album, making this record a generally enjoyable effort.

The album begins with "The Swan Lake", a solid opener featuring pleasant melodies with effective use of jazz-influenced harmonic tendencies (the fact that it's a namesake of Tchaikovsky's famous ballet is apparently a coincidence). Following it is "Little Pieces Part 1" , a short interlude based around a two-chord vamp; such things work fine when used as a build-up to something grand, but ,unfortunately, the title track (uh, suite) that follows is a disappointment . After a frantic and annoying synth-driven intro, it quickly slips into an unremarkable Camel-like melody over a Spanish-style chord progression; halfway through it gets jazzed-up into a softer soloing session, before concluding with another frenetic synth-ruled section, accept that this time it provides the highlight of the track through intense, dissonant keyboard work , redeeming it somewhat. However, the annoying intro from the "suite" returns at the beginning of "Mizzle", which is more in the vein of "Crossfire" from "A Story.", with plenty of technical, but uninteresting (from a listener's point of view) instrumental wizardry. Canterbury influences manifest themselves in the aptly titled "Canterbury Tale", a beautiful melancholy journey which is followed by "Magic Carpet": it's haunting intro reminds me a bit of a Camel song (I believe it's "Nimrodel"), but follows is quite standard jazz-rock/fushion , thankfully of considerable quality and with plenty of strong moments during the guitar/keyboard duels. "Little Pieces part 2" is a variation of ".part 1" on the piano, and quite an improvement over it with some very fine motifs added by Fujikawa. Finally, the closing track "Pipe Dream" marks another highlight of the album with interesting melodic moves during the mostly major-key section, as well as some melancholy parts (parts of which remind me a bit of something I heard on Dream Theater's "Scenes from a Memory"), thus ending the album on a high note.

Overall, this album isn't essential prog and far from a masterpiece: it doesn't really break any new ground and about half of it is flawed. However, it's a considerable improvement over the bands debut, with stronger compositions and impressive musicianship. Probably well-worth seeking if you are a Camel/Caravan/Canterbury fan.


Report this review (#61497)
Posted Saturday, December 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After a highly promising and impressive debut, Ain Soph seemed to me like one of the most promising Jazz-Rock bands from Japan in the early 80's. This second offering, however, goes in different directions than before.

While their debut album is a progressive jazz rollercoaster with plenty of technical and compositional competence, "Hat and Field" is calmer, easier to digest and warmer than it's predecessor. It still have the symphonic and canterbury-ish elements from their debut, only that this time they're presented more gently in the songs, and the compositions are far more relaxing and less demanding to listen to. The only problem with this is that the songs seems duller, less interesting and lacks the fire that the band provided for their debut this time. This makes the album a bit uneven, and even boring at times, but it's still enjoyable although not as remarkable as I wanted it to be. It tries hard, but doesn't quite make it, to say it with other words. The songs are melodic but not nearly as thrilling as they could be, but this still is a good album generally, and a good handful of the songs are actually quite good. The musicianship is very good and the production is clear and warm enough to provide all the music nicely througout and adds an extra plus to this (slightly disappointing) album.

This album is a good follow-up to their debut, although quite different. It's a good bet if you are interested in this band, or if you think their debut is a bit too much. If you like jazzy, melodic and solid prog then give this one a try. If you already are in love with their debut, you might get a bit disappointed (as I did) but it still deserves 3.5/5.

Report this review (#142526)
Posted Sunday, October 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Love at first Feel

This is one of those opportunities when an album clicks on you just by hearing the first note on it.If you are a fan of jazz fusion and the late Canterbury Scene , then this is the real deal for you.Ain Soph are a japanese cult band that did not release many albums , however the few they released were absolutely stunning.If I were to find a way to describe the album sound it may be usefuf to say that this is a mixture between The Rotter's Club and National Health debut album.

Yet , this description falls short.The music is crafted with so much precission that it's possible for you to feel overwhelmed by this fact.However guitarist Yozox plays some of the most emotional notes ever played on a six string , and when I say emotional I mean: David Gilmour , Steve Rothery or the Derek and the Dominos Clapton phase.Just hear to the opening track The swan lake and you will understand what I say.

Yozox ain't the only virtuoso on the list , Bassist Nasashiro Tokigaki and drummer Taiqui manage to deliver a fine performance on the record , mainly on the 10 minute title track and the colsing track Pipe Dream

I am not giving this hidden gem the same rating as Brain Salad Surgery for no reason , this may be one of my best adquisiitions in my neverending musical journey.Having heard this group , I started to get albums by japanese artists like Kenso , Kazumi Watanabe , Gerard and Hiromi but I am searchng for more! It's just that japanese mucisians seem to have something with jazz , the way they interpret it leaves me in awe.

A very reccommended album if you are a jazz fusion fan like me.

Report this review (#187564)
Posted Saturday, November 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Swan Lake 5:46. Very catchy start of an album, soft key to a strong guitar with a tune you can follow, pretty slick, bass flying some notes of it's own. Keys following then completely take over with bass up and down back to full guitar excellent keys above. Tempo and style to pure elec guitar. Steeling the show. drums, bass, keys all doing fine job. Full sound chord changes wonderful. Oh, nice acoustic then back to top to close this. 4.7

Little Pieces pt.1 1:37 soft key with swirls overhead-nice-unratable

Suite: Hat and Field 10:03 strong start precision! Nice guitars and a Rush from Xanadu sounding bass chord, good feeling electric guitar comes in back to acoustic to elec, almost Christmasy. Elec guitar just playing as nicely as Chuck Mangione plays his trumpet. 4.5 min in change tempo, very nice acoustic. subtle tones can fill you here. Put you out of body. Definate mood music (any). They take their time any give you what you want, hitting all the right notes and chords. 8m. Oh my, bass guitar up tempo precision again! Very straight forward when elec guitar comes in with impressive keys and pounding drum, this IS very structured and difficult composition. Intense and sudden end. 4.8

goes right into "Mizzle" 3:45. Keeping the tension going, up pace each instrument having a shot at lead. Strong piece, full sound. Very solid. 4.1

Canterbury Tale 3:00 Guitar takes a lead at this with backing chords once again taking a very favorable melody. Almost meloncholy then, satisfaction feeling. 4.3

Magic Carpet 6:59 Keys open this with very dark backing then a sax enters in chord changes, off key but enter guitar with key and a dat dat dat. This is a jazzyish piece till the electric guitar overtakes it at 3m. Now we start jammin a bit. Broken jazz I'd say. (whenever I hear an electric guitar it is difficult to associate it with jazz). I had previously (in my system given this an 8.8 or 4.4, I'm going to drop that to a flat 4. Still instrumentally very impressive. Specially the end.

Little Pieces pt.2 2:33 Very very nice piano! 4.6

Pipe Dream 7:55 I had previously written in my own notes "Anthony Phillips take off of Geese and the Ghost" and that is exactly what it is. Copywrite infringement???? Played with keys (you'll recognize the melody). This upsets me because Phillips is one of my favorite artists. Besides that this is a bit too techno for me, of course until 3:45 when the electric guitar starts in, then it just got very impressive with it's own (not stolen) melody. It is almost the center section of ASoMF. Damn it I have to give it a 3.9 for a strong mid section, back to copywrite to close, even has cannon fire at end. Maybe it was dedicated to him, further inquiry needed.

All in all a 4.5 album. Wish I could rate it as such.

Report this review (#352092)
Posted Tuesday, December 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars It seems with the band's debut, they made an attempt to showcase their musical ability while giving less effort to their songwriting whereas, in this album, it seems as though the band does a flip over and makes an attempt to craft beautiful and interesting songs that may not show off how talented the musicians are, but nevertheless that talent is still there.

This second style works for the band and I find myself absolutely loving this album, I enjoyed their debut but at times it became a bit much whereas this album seems to have a perfect soothing pace throughout. Also, a strong bonus is that you don't enjoy have to be a fan of prog to enjoy this record, I will play this for my family, friends, girlfriend and it is almost always a crowd pleaser, it is simultaneously interesting and relaxing in such a way that it's hard for anybody to dislike this record.

But this safety net may in fact be the albums downfall, it takes no chances and although the musicianship is fantastic, the songs are beautifully crafted and the music is absolutely breathtaking the album is completely safe and doesn't stry to far away from its roots. I wouldn't call the album redundant, it doesn't befin to sound the same and the music certainly doesn't start to grate on you but the style doesn't exactly change.

I would reccomend this music to just about anybody but wouldn't call this a masterpiece of progressive music, but it's still an absolutely breathtaking album.

Report this review (#1172714)
Posted Thursday, May 8, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Shortly after the release of the masterful ''A story of mysterious forest'' Masey Hattori left Ain Soph, he went to form his own Fusion-oriented band 99.99.That resulted the pause of activities by the band, around 1983 a new keyboardist was brought on board, but the new formation did not work out.After releasing a solo cassette in 1983, Yozox Yamamoto reformed Ain Soph due to the unexpected comeback of Kikuo Fujikawa.With Masahiro Torigaki on bass and Bellaphon's Taiqui Tomiie on drums the band would record its second disc ''Hat and field'' in 1986, released on Nexus.

The title of the album says it all.The much more Classical-influenced Masey Hattori was out and Fujikama's jazzy-spiced playing was thrown in Ain Soph's style, thus the new album was heavily resembling to the pre-Ain Soph years of Tenchi Sozo.With such a name it's rather useless to talk about the band's sound at this point.It was recalling the monster Canterbury Fusion works of the 70's and HATFIELD AND THE NORTH, CARAVAN, NATIONAL HEALTH and even FOCUS are just a few names, the sound of which Ain Soph tried to plagiarize in ''Hat and Field''.So most of this effort passes through ethereal electric piano and synth workouts, CAMEL-like emotional and jazzy-flavored solos and melodies (remember, Tomiie came from BELLAPHON, which were a highly CAMEL-influenced combo) and generally ''Hat and field'' tries to deliver an airy, less technical and more melodious approach on Progressive/Jazz Rock with accesible tunes on an all instrumental offering.Being Japanese, which means musicians with an impressive technical level, Ain Soph couldn't leave their virtuosic skills aside, so a couple of pieces feature some fiery interplays on keyboards and guitars, sitting comfortably next to the calm solos and atmospheric keyboards.Moreover, despite being a really down-to- earth album, ''Hat and field'' contains a huge number of emphatic breaks and rhythm changes, somewhat unfairly treated by the band itself due to some flat keyboard lines, but the result is always tasteful and interesting.

The revival of the Canterbury scene into the 80's.Melodic British-styled Fusion, nothing to do actually with the more symphonic sound of ''A story of mysterious forest'', this sits somewhere between Camel and Hatfield and The North.Warmly recommended for its honest approach on progressive instrumentals and delicate interplays.

Report this review (#1380975)
Posted Wednesday, March 11, 2015 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is AIN SOPH's second album released some six years after their debut "A Story Of Mysterious Forest". I do prefer the 1980 debut as I gave it 4.5 stars but this one is well worth the 4 stars in my opinion. "Hat And Field" is an obvious reference to HATFIELD AND THE NORTH including the very cool album cover. There's also a song called "A Canterbury Tale(For Pye Hastings & Richard Sinclair)", yet to my ears this is Jazz/ Rock Fusion all the way with them crossing the line into Symphonic and Canterbury the odd time. I wish the liner notes were in English as there's a lot of info but I appreciate the many pictures of the band, mostly in the studio.

"The Swan Lake" has a mellow intro that turns beautiful before a minute followed by a guitar led section, very enjoyable. Distorted keys replace the guitar and the bass is prominent here as well. The guitar is back leading and man that bass is good. A calm after 4 1/2 minutes but it's brief as that guitar led soundscape returns. "Little Pieces Part 1" and the second part later on were written by the keyboardist while pretty much everything else was written by the guitarist named Yozok. This short piece is piano and floating synths throughout.

"Suite: Hat And Field" is the longest piece at just over 10 minutes and it's divided into 5 sections. It hits the ground running with so much going on but then it stops as a guitar led melody takes over. Catchy stuff with some nice bass too. I like how themes are repeated throughout. We get an almost spacey vibe 4 1/2 minutes in that's beautiful and I like the relaxed keyboard work after 7 minutes. The tempo picks up before 8 1/2 minutes big time.

"Mizzle" is a Jazz/ Fusion piece where they show off their chops. Impressive! "Canterbury Tale(For Pye Hastings & Richard Sinclair)" is a guitar led song that is a fitting tribute, very enjoyable. "Magic Carpet" is synth led as the music swells and collapses until it kicks into a Jazz/ Fusion track that is quite lively. A calm before 3 minutes and I love when the guitar comes in with the background synths. "Little Pieces Part 2' like the first one is piano led with spacey synths, very ballad-like. "Pipe Dream" is a bright keyboard led track with prominent bass and busy drum work. The guitar starts to lead before 4 1/2 minutes. Nice.

A really enjoyable album that will scratch the itch for most of you Jazz Rock/ Fusion fans out there.

Report this review (#1557840)
Posted Sunday, May 1, 2016 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Japanese instrumental four-piece Ain Soph released a greatly admired debut `A Story of Mysterious Forest' in 1980, and despite a reworked line-up here of departing and returning band members, their follow-up arrived six years later, entitled `Hat and Field'. Unsurprisingly, with that title, the band frequently performed music in the Canterbury sound style, but they were also just as likely to incorporate strong symphonic elements and plenty of fiery jazz-fusion, and it makes for an exciting and dynamic set with frequent moments of prettiness and soothing moods as well.

Hardly unexpected with a title like `The Swan Lake', the opener is a prancing symphonic swoon with jazzy soloing breaks, flecked ever so gently with a medieval fancy and touches of soft whimsy that reminds instantly of Camel and wouldn't have sounded out of place on their `Snow Goose' album. `Little Pieces part 1' is a low-key electric piano and dreamy synth interlude, but then it's all business for the ten minute, five-part `Suite - Hat and Field' epic. The band showcase an excellent use of reprising elegant and warmly embracing themes, many that again remind of Camel with the crisp electric guitar melodies, pristine acoustic interludes and serene synth airiness. A last minute blast of fuzzy keyboard wig-out busyness sees `Suite' oddly move right into `Mizzle' that closes out the first side, a frantic jazz-fusion race with plenty of twisting-turning heavy guitar snarls, rumbling drum tantrums and unravelling Seventies-flavoured Mini-Moog runs.

`Canterbury Tale (for Pye Hastings & Richard Sinclair)' opens the second side, a cheerful and romantic symphonic devotion to the two Canterbury scene notables of chiming acoustic guitar magic and mellow electric guitar soloing, reminding of both Caravan and even Richard's time with Camel. `Magic Carpet' is a solo-heavy rocker, `Little Pieces part 2' a lovely piano reprise of the first part from the flip side, and the infectious closer `Pipe Dream' has a jazzy spring in its step and provides plenty of happy-go-lucky back-and-forth rollicking playfulness with fuzzy electric piano noodling and stirring Andy Latimar-flavoured guitar work full of dignity and grandness.

Admittedly a few short stretches come close to being just a little bland, and the Eighties production sometimes gives the music a slightly clinical sound (but hey, even real-deal Canterbury-related LP's like National Health's `D.S Al Coda' from the same decade occasionally suffered the same fate), but this is a hugely charming album, delivered with the technicality and professionalism that is a consistent characteristic of Japanese prog-related groups. Listeners wanting a fine jazz-fusion/symphonic/Canterbury crossover disc should absolutely investigate this one immediately.

Four stars.

Report this review (#1722985)
Posted Wednesday, May 17, 2017 | Review Permalink

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