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Ain Soph - A Story Of Mysterious Forest CD (album) cover


Ain Soph

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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5 stars Breathtaking instrumental progressive rock from Japan carrying a nice laid back Canterbury fusion element throughout. This is truely beautiful music with some great jazz-like imagery(jazz piano..), loads of atmospheric synths (aka CAMEL), wonderful guitar accents and superb bass and drum interplay. "A Story of Mysterious Forest" seems to progress seamlessly through its wild musical transformation which moves from the intro of fusion jazz into the lounge-like excursions to its grand finale resting spot, the title 20 mins track which is full of the most wonderful pastoral, space prog you have ever heard. This epic track nicely captures with the use of the mellotron the atmosphere of the fog laden imagination within the mysterious forest... sounds deep eh! Album offers enough mood and tempo swings to satisfy every progressive rock fan for years to come. Without a doubt this is an essential jem and would most certainly be one of my personal fav from Japan...
Report this review (#632)
Posted Thursday, March 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars After some years of hard struggling in the Japanese music market, Ain Soph eventually managed to make their recoding debut in 1980... and what a debut! Their prog style is based on a delicate, ellegant balance between the jazz area (the fusionesque drive of Return to Forever and Pastorius-era Weather Report, the melodic candor of Canterbury) and the symphonic stuff (74-77 Camel, 76-78 Genesis, WYWH-era Pink Floyd), resulting in a colourful combination of well crafted compositions and top-notch musicianship. The addition of Asian lines and textures allows the band to create an idiosyncratic ambience for their prog style, despite the clear presence of the aforementioned influences. 'Crossfire' is a real crossfire of guitar and synth duelling thorugh their alternate amazing solos, on the solid foundation laid by the rythm section: something like 'Los Endos'-meets-'Romantic Warrior'. The level of proficiency doesn't decay for a second along the whole album. Despite the title's destructive implications, 'Natural Selection' reminds me of Gilgamesh's delicate exquisiteness, with a definite exotic Far East flavour that helps things seem warm and peaceful; things get more intense in the following number, 'Variations on a Theme by Brian Smith', in which Ain Soph exercise their own version of the jazz-fusion prototypical sound - including some Flamenco-like lines on acoustic guitar, just like Di Meola. The absolute gem in the album is the namesake suite, which allows the band to explore futher into their symph prog leaning: the succession of varied melodic lines on the wings of a well structured sequence of diverse rhythm patterns and ambiences makes this track a masterpiece in itself. I feel unable to make myself clear about the captivating beauty of this piece. I'll only mention some of its most brilliant fractions: the Camel-esque eerie intesity of c and i; the magical melancholy of d; the playful Latin-jazz tinged colours of g; the visions of an early morning forest depicted on a and j. All in all, this suite is something to enjoy properly as a whole, making it so easy for the listener to keep his full attention for almost 20 minutes. The two interludes are musical portions on acoustic guitar, that provide some introspective touches in the middle of a repertoire full of splendid showstoppers. A masterpiece!!

(I dedicate this review to my good friend Daniel Padilla)

Report this review (#633)
Posted Sunday, June 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars While the musicianship exhibited by this band is evident, so is their inability to write anything memorable. The rhythm section is rock-solid, the keyboardist is outstanding, particularly with his jazzy piano solos, and the guitarist has impressive shredding abilities (which ironically often make him sound like Al di Meola), yet the band lacks compositional creativity; as a result, this instrumental album sounds like Return To Forever covering bad Camel songs.

The album begins with "Crossfire", a rather wanky technical demonstration, where everyone gets to "shine" ;while this approach usually works in the context of a good composition, it's quite uninspiring as a opener. Next we have a short acoustic guitar interlude titled "Interlude I" , which is pleasant, but nothing spectacular. Following it is "Natural Selection", the first long track: it has neat arrangements and fine jazz soloing on piano and guitar that to an extent do manage to make up for the forgettable melodies and other filler. "Variations on a Theme by Brian Smith" is probably the strongest composition on the album, and while it too suffers from the aforementioned problems and is quite clumsy in places, the masterful piano work and interesting harmonic moves make this a standout number. The title track, however, should've been shortened to about half it's length of18:47 - it starts with a generally nice 3 minute intro, after which a new musical theme is introduced (featuring some Jean-Michael Jarre-influenced synths and a classical interlude that would pop up throughout the track),only to be quickly replaced by a second one consisting of a simple chord progression repeated up until somewhere around the 13 minute mark (most of the time is consumed by a melodic guitar solo), and finally substituted by what has already been heard during the first few minutes; as a result, it's likeable but ultimately boring. Finally, "Interlude II" simply repeats "Interlude I".

Overall, Ain Soph is a promising band that doesn't live up to it's promise - at least on this album.The virtuosic jazz excursions are surely impressive, but sacrificing quality compositional material in their favor doesn't sit too well with me.

Report this review (#57951)
Posted Saturday, November 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars 3.5 stars, rounded to 4.

In my experience with jazz rock/fusion, I must say not many bands sound like Ain Soph; maybe it has to do with the fact that they are influenced by many bands, including Camel, Genesis and Pink Floyd. There's a great deal of what one could hear from a 90's or 00's King Crimson album (particularly on the dissonant chord progressions and the electronic ambience).

One department of this album that I found a bit lacking in dynamics was the guitar playing, using very conservative patterns while apparently to just shifting frets and strings: not much inventiveness and appears to compromise in just showing shred skills with the right hand, while the left just repeats the same scale, the same finger sequence. In the song "Variations on a theme by Brian Smith" the guitar playing is a bit improved, often playing chromatic scales to change the routine. Even so, the guitar player sounded promising; just not fulfilling the promise. He also delivers a beautiful acoustic guitar spot on "Interlude I".

For me the most memorable song is "Natural Selection", and just for it's mad bridge (which reminds me a lot to RTF's latin-jazz releases and a bit of their "Musicmagic" album). "Variations On A Theme by Brian Smith" is also very latin-sounding with again odd chord progressions. The sidelong title track is a mixed bag: it start with a very symphonic-prog feel (including superb harpsichord segments), and then we're in for a very Pink Floyd sounding section; then the next evokes Gentle Giant/PFM a little; finally, the intro is reprised in the outro and then the climax would prolongue itself into the Interlude II (which is a wrong term for the piece, since it doesn't stand between two large parts but at the very end of the album). I feel it's a bit overextended but not overly annoying.

So here you have it, perhaps not their best effort but surely it's worthy of trying out if you are a fusion fan who also happens to love symphonic "prog" or King Crimson.

Report this review (#108160)
Posted Saturday, January 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Well, ever since hearing the PA sample from this album for the first time Ain Soph was one of my most anticipated bands around. After finally hearing this album, I can surely say it was worth the wait!

Ain Soph is one of the finest Jazz-Rock bands heading from Japan. Their music is very jazzy, but also quite symphonic in the spirit of the classic progressive rock bands such as Genesis, Yes, ELP and the likes. Floating and melodic songs alŕ Return to Forever or Camel with plenty of tight and great musicianship that is impressive, and luckily not too showy. Although the technical skills of the musicians is heavily dominating the first track, "Crossfire", the other songs are less rapid and focuses more on style and structure, while still being technically impressive. The songs are long, but has plenty to offer and creates different moods within each section of them very well, leaving the listener satisfyed during these 40-minutes without being too overloaded. The production is very good, and I really like the sound of the instruments. The piano and synths are very clear and the drums are clear but still very powerful and effective to the songs.

The title track is a 18-minute journey with strong Pink Floyd elements that harkens back the the Meddle days immediately, complete with a Gilmour-esque guitar solo and same spacey backing music. Although being very good overall, it isn't as good musically as the other pieces on the album unfortunately. If it had been better, this one would have been a 5 star album easily, but this is still a very solid and adventurous album with lot's of potential!

Anyways, based on all this, you should pick this one up if you like melodic Jazz-Rock in the more symphonic prog vein. Fans of Kenso and RTF especially. 4.5/5

Report this review (#142525)
Posted Sunday, October 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The demo that ended up as the ''Ride on a Camel'' documentary album marked the end of Kikuo Fujikawa's presence with the band, at least until the mid-80's.He left Tenchi Sozo, who were renamed to Ain Soph after the arrival of new keyboardist Masey Hattori.The fresh line-up signed with King Records and recorded Ain Soph's debut ''A Story of Mysterious Forest'' in a week at King Records Studio 2 and Studio 901 in Tokyo at the end of January 1980.It was released the same year, featuring an excellent painting of Czech artist Vítezslav Karel Masek as a front cover.

''A Story of Mysterious Forest'' sounds like an improved version of Techni Sozo's material, where the Canterbury influence remains apparent, the CAMEL-like melodies are still present, but the overall performances seems more tight and energetic.The satisfying first side contains nice instrumental Progressive/Jazz-Rock with plenty of symphonic breaks in the keyboard parts and some fine jazzy guitar solos by Yozox Yamamoto.The delivery is highly technical with even some acoustic crescendos, while the two longest compositions are full of decent breaks.Hattori is a perfect replacement for Fujikawa and his keyboard workouts are somewhere between PETER BARDENS' work with CAMEL and DAVID L. STEWART's virtuosic Canterbury themes with NATIONAL HEALTH.Of course the album is highlighted by the self-titled eponymous 10-part suite and its fantastic blending of Symphonic Rock with Jazz/Fusion.The opening Classical-based themes in the vein of FOCUS and THE ENID give their place to some excellent GENESIS-like synths, before Yamamoto strikes back with some superb guitar solos of the highest inspiration, supported by Hattori's symphonic Mellotron.Again some smooth THE ENID-like Classical soundscapes appear and the track ends with a Fusion atmosphere filled with Hattori's impressive synthesizers and Yamamoto's fiery guitars.

No question, this belongs among the best Japanese Progressive Rock releases of the 80's.Fascinating, technical, all instrumental Symphonic/Jazz Rock of high quality.Approach without any hesitation.

Report this review (#164603)
Posted Saturday, March 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars. What a fantastic album this is ! Released in 1980 AIN SOPH's debut features Jazz, Canterbury, Fusion and Symphonic offerings with a liberal heaping of mellotron on a couple of tracks.

"Crossfire" is an uptempo blend of Jazz and Canterbury with some firey Fusion as well. The guitar and keys really rip it up. I have to mention the drumming as well, and the fast paced bass lines. Speed of light guitar and keys 2 minutes in. "Interlude I" is a short acoustic guitar piece that is quite intricate. I like it a lot. "Natural Selection" starts softly but a full Jazz sound with chunky bass arrives before a minute.This is a relaxed mid paced tune until the tempo shifts back and forth dramatically starting at 3 1/2 minutes.This is followed by liquid keys and fat bass lines, then guitar joins in until that mid paced section from earlier returns. "Variations On A Theme By Brian Smith" opens with a splendid piano solo. It turns jazzy quickly though with some nice drum work. Spanish styled guitar 2 1/2 minutes in. A calm 4 1/2 minutes in and a new melody comes out of it. This section is more reserved and has a Canterbury flavour, but the keys, drums and bass shine. Great passage. Guitar and mellotron 7 minutes in. Incredible ! The guitar is fantastic. Mellotron returns 9 minutes in. It ends as it began with piano.

"A Story Of Mysterious Forest" is mostly Symphonic and features lots of synths and organ early. GENESIS-like 2 minutes in. It kicks into gear 4 minutes in. A calm after 5 1/2 minutes as Gilmour-like guitar (not soaring) comes in. It kicks back in around 7 1/2 minutes as the guitar continues to lead the way. Amazing section. Mellotron takes over as the guitar stops. Nice.The guitar returns before 10 minutes and lights it up as the mellotron flows. A calm after 11 minutes. Organ 13 minutes floats in. It's still calm. Suddenly it kicks back in after 14 minutes. It settles with harpsichord 15 1/2 minutes in, then the organ joins in too. A total change before 17 minutes as a CAMEL flavoured melody arrives. "Interlude II" is the same as the first one with acoustic guitar melodies.

When ZAO played live in Japan on their reunion tour in 2004, it was AIN SOPH who opened for them. I would have given my left arm to see that show.

Report this review (#190122)
Posted Friday, November 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Fascinating album, but not the masterpiece some make it out to be. The wonderful "A-side" (tracks 1 - 4) is high-octane symphonic jazz-rock, strongly reminiscent of early Brand X at their best, with frenetic lead guitar and drums which bring to mind the interplay of Phil Collins and John Goodsall. However, there are some weird and dopey synth intermezzos as well, and at least one grand piano cadenza straight out of ELP's TRILOGY. If the original B-side (tracks 5 and 6) were just as good, I would award the album at least four stars (there are few enough first-rate Brand X albums to listen to as things stand!) but unfortunately the 18+ minute title track is shapeless, sleep-inducing and all over the place: the kind of slow, stately and ballad-like symfo-pap which (by 1980) had been milked to death by Camel and Pink Floyd. There's one fiery but all too brief guitar solo, loads of disappointing tempo changes, some totally superfluous harpsichord (I adore the harpsichord, but you've got to DO something with it) and no climax worth speaking of. Some bonus points for the album's title (which a native speaker of English would never come up with) and for the excellent cover art by the obscure Art Nouveau painter Karel Masek Viteslav.
Report this review (#218097)
Posted Sunday, May 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This Ain Soph is recognized as a band generally located in the highest peak between fans of Prog Rock for the music of Japan where I live. It is in the element with width very wide in which the Music's genre cannot be specified for a charm of their music. Of course, the technology of their performances might project in the music that exists in Japan.

The history of their music goes back in the early the 70's. The activity of guitar player's Yozo Yamamoto had the flow of the blues and the lock as a band leader. The element originated the edge in the band that was called "Tenchi-Souzou" ,in a word, "Creation" in the 70's. The musician from whom they had gotten acquainted in student's age had already had a high- quality element for the technology and the knowledge of music.

They have renamed the name of the band to "Ain Soph" in 1977. And, it changes radically and the band begins the production of this debut album though they were facing the state of the dissolution of the band in 1979.

The band with the technology like them guesses that it did not exist so much in Japan though they at that time had gone well in live to some degree. There might have been time when a few in was necessary by the time the existence was accepted by the spectator, too.

However, it is guessed that the music at which they had been aiming at that time obviously included music , for example, Canterbury and Jazz Rock. When this album is announced, it is said that the listener showed puzzled to the fixation of the genre a little because it was specified.

They in debut CD were and there was power in the shown performance. Elements such as Canterbury and Jazz Rock might be taken without remaining and all of them be included in this album that works enough in the masterpiece.

Report this review (#229474)
Posted Sunday, August 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ain Soph's first attempt to write progressive rock music is far greater than many of the bands of this genre. It's like they knew the magic recipe for great compositions.But it isn't only the composition it self but the great musicianship and ability that makes this record truly shine! The keys are exceptional, from the ideas to the sound selection.The trebly bass has some great basslines many times going along with the melodies of the keys. The album kicks in with a very fast fusion type of song, which short lasting but shows the abilities of the players in jazz paths.I really like the album beginning this way, but it's not an actual song.The actual album ''begins'' with the interlude part one,an acoustic greatness and ends with interlude part two being somewhat similar. Personally i love this. So the main songs are just three. Natural Selection starts of very melodically with some ''funny'' themes, then it goes on with some jazz piano and solo, then it heads off in jazz standards changing between one theme and back to then continues like a fusion type with a great keyboard and guitar solo and it ends with the beginning theme. Variations on a theme starts with an amazing classical piano solo then very powerful with latin influences, and a flamengo guitar solo,follwed after by a intelligent keyboard solo and then guitar solo over a 4/4,7/8 repetitive rhythmic and it closes with some amazing mellotron sounds and a beautifull piano outro.A story of mysterious forest brings me images of a land beyond our imagination, fairy tale like music, and the action starts on the 3d minute with fast drumming and blistering keyboards, which comes again as a reprise in the end.I Love when this happens. In the middle it gets really low and atmospheric passages from guitar and mellotron chords till the 14th minute when the adventure in the magial forest begins again in a very playfull 7/8 time signature.And what a better way to end this with a reprise of an earlier melody. With many tempo and time signature swings, slow parts and very powerful ones, raging guitars, mellotron passages, playful themes and great musicianship in overall this album has it all! All one true progressive rock fan would want to hear. Highly recommended.
Report this review (#259076)
Posted Sunday, January 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album starts out with a keyboard stronghold similar to sounds of Zappa, a song called Crossfire at 2:54. out of 10 I give it a 6.4.

track 2 Interlude 1. An even shorter acoustic guitar piece completely different setting than previous, very nice due to it's length at 1:31 I leave it unratable.

track 3 Natural selection, very jazz laiden yet not . Keyboards again and synths and a great drum kit going on. Keys over diff keys abound with a bass keeping up then an electric guitar takes over the course to a calm, floppy keys with flute (I believe keys). Not jazz, very technical drum key section then we change again to a solo piano. Change again to very synthed, though very technical I'm having trouble finding my place, then skillful, enter acoustic spanish sounding guitar with some floating keys, bass chords, not sure, I think I got lodt at the drug store. At 8:11 though very instrumentaly sounds, the composition eludes me. 5.8 of 10

track 4 Variations on A Theme by Brian Smith at 9:42 Has some highlights on guitar but again misplaced on complexion, Very nice finish though, 7 of 10

track 5 A Story of Mysterious Forest the 18:45 version (24:24 on Ride a Camel album).Start this megastructure with swirling keys very subtle with acoustic guitar so quiet......drums and keys enter and pick up the pace, brilliant sound! Harpsichord in refrains! comes to something any Pink Floyd Richard Wright fan would adore. So quietly an electric guitar enters playing some of the soothingest notes I've ever heard.mellow!!,>>brings you to a peaceful bliss till 7:30 sound the drums electric guitar and backing keys accentuate this performance!!!! Just brilliant. keys continue a nice mellow pace to electric storms back in OMG.<track 5 Interlude 2 at 0:32 unratable. Very nice acoustic.

All in all I give this album 4 stars based on title track, because it is an excellent addition.

Report this review (#352087)
Posted Tuesday, December 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
3 stars Well,. I guess my expectations were too great. Here in Brazil the prog comunity just love bands from Japan. I like some too but I don´t think this album is as great as some people say. I much rather hear Belaphon or Novella. Ain Soph is a fine jazz-rock band with some prog leanings (the title track, especially on the first half is an excellent exemple of how good they could get as a prog band in the vein of Belaphon, absolutely gorgeous). The rest is good, I guess, but there´s just too much jazz-rock/fusion cliches for my taste. Like all those bands, the musicans are exceptionally skillful and technical. Like most jazz rock bands, however, most of the time the songs just seem to be an exercise on virtuosity with little room for melody or emotion. Music for musicians as they say. And It´s allright, if you like that. Ain Soph is in the middle of the way between the typical jazz-rock group and a full blown symphonic prog rock outfit (the influences of Camel are clear in that aspect). The final result is kind of a hybrid that don´t mix well: the jazz rock passages are just too jazz rock and the prog parts are totally melodic and symphonic, like two differente bands on the same stage battling for atention.

All in all I liked the CD. Not the masterpiece some claim, but very good anyway. A shame those guys couldn´t decide wheter they were prog or jazz, or beter yet, came up with a good mix of both. But the prog parts are very good. I guess I´ll have to hear their follow ups to have a better overview of their sound. For now, something between 3 and 3,5 stars is my rating for A Story Of Mysterious Forest.

Report this review (#827314)
Posted Monday, September 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ain Soph's debut album features an instrumental mashup of progressive rock and jazz. At points, the Japanese group turn out material reminiscent of the Canterbury style - logically enough, since much Canterbury material was characterised by a particular approach to prog-inclined jazz-rock - and in these moments the group joins the ranks of the likes of Supersister or Picchio dal Pozzo in terms of groups who, despite not even hailing from the UK, still produce something that feels like it's got that distinctive Canterbury style to it. At the same time, Ain Soph's sound is a bit more wider ranging, with more purely symphonic touches here and harder-edged moments of fusion there ensuring that things stay unpredictable.
Report this review (#1728250)
Posted Tuesday, May 30, 2017 | Review Permalink

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