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Jade Warrior - Kites CD (album) cover


Jade Warrior

Psychedelic/Space Rock

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This record is another gift here from Jade Warrior! Compared to the previous album Waves, which reaches an unprecedented level of peace, delicateness & relaxation, Kites often explores more disturbing textures, even sometimes creating upsetting ambiance: the notes and textures are often dramatically sustained for a long time; then, you can suddenly hear unexpected peak sounds, which may make you to startle, especially on side 2. On this side, the presence of string arrangements contribute to give some graceful grandeur to this record. The songs are really varied. The rhythm is slow. The dreamy Fender Rhodes parts are just delightful. The peaceful, relaxing and delicate elements present on the Waves album is still very omnipresent here: there are flutes, violins, percussions, electric & acoustic guitars and female chorus: maybe those mellow bits are even better than on Waves. The little Asian influence here seems more present than ever.
Report this review (#3966)
Posted Sunday, April 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is a beautiful piece of music, there is no denying. It is very oriental in style, and is pretty much no longer rock at all. It calls up landscape type imagery while listening to it, and the group even said in the album notes that a forest at dawn was in mind while writing the music. It is a very orchestrated album, with two separate ideas. The first half of the album deals with the forest described in the notes, and the second half is about an ancient Zen master named Teh Ch'eng which is very interesting in the linear notes, but doesn't seem to really be called up by the music.

I suppose the only influence I could say these fellows had for this recording was King Crimson for spear- heading the orchestral/rock fusion in the English speaking part of the world. They manage to have a very original sound on the album for the time period. Most people would assume its "classical" oriental music!

For everything that's good about the album, it just isn't very interesting. It doesn't have any hooks, no ultra complex compositions, very little build up. It would be nearly impossible to just listen to the music without distraction and not get bored for good lengths of time. It also doesn't have one moment in particular which jumps out and makes you think "Wow! Now this is good music". An album that's entirely atmospheric needs some sort of catch or gimmick to make it more interesting, but this album doesn't have that it is just very plain.

It is however, easy to appreciate the thought put into each song. They do achieve everything they set out to do, and the entire thing is very pleasing to the ears. Its the kind of music to listen to while being creative, it conjures up some impressive visions. For the most part its very simple rhythmically, and the music is built up around it giving the idea that the rhythm is the landscape and the other sounds are the happenings, like a sway of the breeze or movement of a mouse. This isn't so much psychedelic music so much as it just orchestral. I guess another failing is that instead of being very different and interesting rock music its more just mediocre orchestral music.

I find the second side to be much more appealing then the first, because it is a single suite it has more space to evolve as a piece of music. Its story may not be clear but there is a definite story like progression to it. I especially like the portion entitled "Arrival Of The Emperor: "What Does The Venerable Sir Do?:" Its very chaotic in comparison to the rest of the album and gives off the impression of a struggle(even though according to the notes it isn't). The following section "Teh Ch'eng: "Do You Understand This?"" has some very nice guitar work (acoustic and electric) and complements the section before nicely. "Wind Borne" from the first side just doesn't do much of anything and fails to earn any praise whatsoever, its just all the flaws and none of the good points.

Its a shame I can only rate this album 3 stars, its obvious that it took a lot of intelligence and musical competence to put together the album. It just fails to be a memorable experience. Like the albums concept, it sort of floats by prettily catches your attention before it falls to the ground and is forgotten.

Report this review (#43391)
Posted Thursday, August 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The third Virgin album of this band might had been described by Frank Zappa as "Almost Chinese?" according his "Lumpy Gravy" record. The gongs open the music from the silence creating huge hallways of sounds, being quite characteristic for this production era of the band. Strings and human voices bring up an association of cinematic movie soundtrack. Soon a rhythm done with several percussions and voices slowly build up the tension, and lead into "The Emperor Kite", having more militaristic Asian sound in the melodies and rhythms. "Wind Borne" is a calmer ambient like number, and in the middle of the song the new-age sounds are again rising its head. The monotonic drumming makes this sound like some more modern chill-out music. The flute solos are pretty, but somehow this calm jazzy piece was a little boring for me to listen. "Kite Song" is an air-fairy flute number closing the LP side A.

"Land of The Warrior" is then quieter face of the vinyl, starting very slowly from silence (I guess this reasonable effect can also grow boring sometimes). There are some nice sounds and violent pipes in the distance, later revealing the warrior theme. Then we move to ambient phase for a sometime, the rhythmic form is born only in the end of the track. Then there is a thematic scene progression of short dialogues; "Arrival of The Emperor: "What does the venerable sir do?" is a quiet soundscape for wind like sounds and flow of chimes; "Teh Ch'eng: "Do you understand this?" and the question is revealed in celestial sound motives; "Arrival of Chia Shan: discourse and liberation" is a very quiet aural space; "Towards The Mountains" a beautiful resolution to this in Japanese melodies; And finally "The Last Question" draws together the musical elements of the album. I think this album is one of the most oriental-themed records done by this band. If you like Japanese / Chinese music influences, here are such elements in a ambient and new age prog rock context for you. The album is interesting, but I think it would work out better with an actual movie composed over it, as the overall listening experience was a bit dull for me. Well, I like the early records of Jade Warrior anyway more, and this is not a bad album.

Report this review (#154651)
Posted Friday, December 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Jade Warrior are one of the most criminally underrated prog bands of the 1970s, and in KITES (which was released in 1976) they produced their masterpiece. Apparently, in the days of emerging punk and disco, no-one was waiting for this filmic 'chamber-prog' which subtly combines, say, early Mike Oldfield (but without Mike's massed guitars or intrusive string synthesizers!), classic Ralph Towner, Eno's BEFORE AND AFTER SCIENCE (particularly the quieter instrumental tracks on that album) and a vast association of Chinese and Japanese soundtracks.

Judging from KITES' song titles, the album tells the story of the Zen monk Chia Shan - a story I am, unfortunately, unfamiliar with. There are no lyrics, and most of the music sounds quiet and dreamy, but it is never too repetitive or sentimental, in other words: definitely NOT 'New Age'. Some of the most striking tracks feature the flute as lead instrument, either delicately accompanied by bass and acoustic guitar (which may remind you of Oregon) or more Oriental-sounding and reminiscent of Noh theatre. 'Quietly by the River Bank' features a lonely electric guitar which sounds as if it's singing out from a Chinese ink landscape. 'Arrival of the Emperor' has some dreamy electric guitar accompanied by, apparently, a harp. 'Arrival of Chia Shan' consists of superbly reflective acoustic guitar, while the final album tracks feature a beautiful combination of guitar, flute, piano and violin.

Even when you don't know what KITES is about, this album will set you dreaming and stimulate your imagination. NOT TO BE MISSED - especially now that the album is included, in its entirety, in the excellent value Jade Warrior retrospective ELEMENTS.

Report this review (#183808)
Posted Saturday, September 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars This JW album is one of those (the third of four I think) insufferable "Japanese" quadrilogy recorded for the Island label that transformed a very average hard rock duo (their first two albums) into an ambient duo, but not being twice better than Eno. In comparison with its two forerunner, Kites is more symphonic and holds a large list of guests, the most interesting for us progheads being Henry Cow's Fred Frith on violin. Kites is also less dual-natured with the original vinyl side, filled with a bunch of shorter tracks (from 36" to almost 7 mins) which are sometimes abruptly interrupted with much care (IMHO)

Plenty of lovely moments still available on this album, sometimes even sounding like Santana (Wind Borne), but in general not numerous and far in-between, the space being occupied by extremely slow music, that fails to enthuse the way some early Krautrock groups did, but their most experimental Arrival Of The Emperor, a bit surprising from Duhig and Fields. Not exactly essential if you ask me, but then again I don't know of a JW album that is essential, even in their Vertigo label days.

Report this review (#196950)
Posted Friday, January 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This particular album contains two concepts. According to the liner notes the first side is an impression of forest, wind and flight as inspired by a Paul Klee painting. While side two is the tale of a boat monk. I have to say that this is the first JADE WARRIOR album that has really impressed me. It's all instrumental with some vocal melodies and lots of atmosphere. It really is the kind of album that can take you places. Great for the imagination.The songs blend into one another.

"Songs Of The Forest" is silent at first, then all of a sudden the forest slowly comes to life as we hear gongs over and over. I really like the tension when the strings come in before 1 1/2 minutes. Some brass as well and flute. "Wind Song" opens with a gong as percussion follows in this laid back beginning. Vocal melodies then brass join in as it becomes quite spacey, almost haunting. Flute comes in late. Great sound. "The Emperor Kite" Is the most dynamic track on side one with percussion, drums, brass and strings dominating the sound. "Wind Borne" is spacey with soft flute and brass coming in after 1 1/2 minutes. A beat comes in and some electric piano. I like the sound after 3 1/2 minutes as piano and acoustic guitar add their charms as flute and the beat continue. Electric guitar takes over for the acoustic guitar. Some bass after 6 minutes stands out. So intricate with a lot going on. A very cool track. "Kite Song" becomes very peaceful with gentle flute throughout. This ends the first side and concept. Great stuff.

"Land Of The Warrior" really plays upon the imagination. The male choir sounds like mellotron that comes in waves as other sounds come and go. Haunting is the word. "Quietly By The River Bank" opens with a loud noise then silence. This becomes mellow with strings, acoustic guitar and piano. "Arrival Of The Emperor" is louder with violins standing out with percussion. Intense. "Do You Understand This ?" opens with atmosphere as a calm follows with flute and other pastoral sounds. Fred Frith comes in on violin around 1 1/2 minutes. Lots of atmosphere here. "Arrival Of Chia Shan : Disclosure And Liberation" continues with the atmosphere until violins and guitar break that mood. Not for long though as a wash of atmosphere takes over. Strings before 2 1/2 minutes until it ends with an abrupt noise. "Towards The Mountains" features gentle guitar, female vocal melodies (briefly) and flute. Strings late. "The Last Question" opens with some guitar then we get silence until it ends with a loud noise.

I really wasn't expecting to like this after the disappointments of "Released" and "Floating World". A special album.

Report this review (#245956)
Posted Friday, October 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars `Kites' is the third part of the legendary Jade Warrior Island records catalogue of four related and essential albums. The duo of Jon Field and Tony Duhig made it their mission to create a body of work which exists as a conceptual whole thanks to the stunning Japanese influenced artwork of Eckford/Stimpson, and the endless flow of their artistic vision . This project remains uncategorisable despite attempts to pigeonhole them as proto-ambient, world music, and even easy listening. There is an integrity in every nuance of this music which makes one marvel at how music could flow so magically from one soundworld to the next.In all honesty the individual track titles are a diversion from the need to surrender to the magical transitions which happen before one's ears as elements of an album whose only restraint was the 20 minute limit of an LP to interrupt a blissful listening experience.

Working on the same recording principles as Mike Oldfield (Jon Field dropped in to play on Tubular Bells) except as a duo, and the pair felt free to overdub any instrument they could get through the studio doors in pursuit of a unique sound which remains readily identifiable and pure to this day. They did not use synthesisers, and other accepted shortcuts, they laboured over sound textures created by `real' instruments to create textural juxtapositions which were uniquely their own.

One thing which leaps out of this newly remastered disc is the absurdity of the `ambient' label. This is not background music. There are dynamics here which reflect the quietest stream to the loudest thunder, and it is this which makes for a unique listening experience. It is perhaps futile to differentiate too much between the four albums, because they really do belong together as a whole body of work, buy one album and you really need them all. There is a continuity of sound which is quite unprecedented.

`Kites' is in effect two suites of music lasting a very dense 36 minutes, it is an intense listening experience in which you will hear music which reflects the very essence and dynamics of every real instrument which could be hit, blown or plucked, creating a beauty will never be captured in quite the same way ever again.

Report this review (#290539)
Posted Friday, July 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars While the evocative beauty of JADE WARRIOR represents master storytelling in its own right, they negotiated a fine line between gifted non verbal conveyance and the largely futile practice of attempting to represent narrative minutiae. On their 4 Island releases, only "Kites" drifts. While the group's sonorous palate remains intact, the effect is that of listening to a must-buy original soundtrack after seeing the movie, only worse, since there is no movie at all.

While the first half proposes several significant highlights, particularly the meditatively percussive "Wind Borne", it is on the thematic sequence of the second part that the disk feels somehow lacking. Instead of revelling in Oriental flourishes implied by the seemingly arbitrary titles, it contents itself with largely amorphous soundscapes punctuated by occasional fretted sounds generally lacking even the understated substance we have come to expect.

I suppose the album closer is lovely in its own way, but by this point we have turned our eyes from this rather drab kite to its more colorful and substantive siblings launched by the same talented hands.

Report this review (#306298)
Posted Saturday, October 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars Wind borne

Not content to stay in one place for more than one album, Jade Warrior once again came up with something different for Kites. If the previous, Waves, was a very jazzy album, Kites is much more symphonic in nature. It is also more eventful and varied with numerous moods, tempos and levels of intensity being explored. Again, like the previous two albums, Kites is an entirely instrumental affair (apart from some wordless vocals) and there is not much connecting this music to that of the group's early, more Rock-based, albums. It was always very hard to put Jade Warrior in a specific genre, but this is surely not Rock music anymore. New-Age and World-Music might tell some part of the story, but not the whole.

While Waves consisted of only two sidelong tracks, Kites is split up into many shorter pieces. Like on all their previous albums, this one also has a sleeve with a heavy Asian aesthetic. But this time, more so than ever before perhaps, the music itself too has an Asian sound. The flutes are very present, as often with Jade Warrior, but here strings play a dominant role for the first time, giving the music a more orchestral/symphonic style. While, in my opinion, Kites is about as interesting and pleasant as Waves, none of these albums are really my cup of tea and neither of them represents the best of what Jade Warrior has to offer. I cannot recommend this to Prog fans in general, but those with a special interest in the music of the group should not miss these quite unique albums.

Report this review (#371591)
Posted Monday, January 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#843248)
Posted Tuesday, October 23, 2012 | Review Permalink

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