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Daimonji - Into A Blind Alley CD (album) cover

INTO A BLIND ALLEY

Daimonji

Zeuhl


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Syzygy
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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The second Daimonji album sees the dynamic trio unleashing yet more of their improvised prog onto an unsuspecting world. The debut album featured a lot of Fender Rhodes piano (or something which sounds very similar) and had something of a zeuhl feel; on this occasion there are more synths in evidence and the sound is what you might get if a RIO band was let loose on ELP's equipment. Symphonic prog sounds are the order of the day, although the musical style is firmly in avant prog territory.

Starstruck kicks off with a squall of vintage moog sounds from Hoppy Kaniyama and Yoshida Tatsuya giving his kit a sound thrashing before the trio settle into a groove that bears a passing resemblance to an Acid Mothers Temple free form freak out. Mitsuro Natsuno underpins everything with an urgent, rumbling bass line that stalks the other two musicians like a hungry predator. Some zeuhl style vocals pop up occasionally, with Yoshida and Hoppy singing in a harmony of their own invention, but for the first part of the piece it's the synths that steal the show. It's clear that they had progressed considerably since their debut, with more assertive bass work from Natsuno and Yoshida easing up on his kit to sound more like a jazz drummer at times, while Hoppy shifts between synth, mellotron, organ and electric piano sounds at will. The vocals are better incorporated than before, and in general it sounds like the three musicians have benefited from some extensive gigging together. As the piece unfolds the sound shifts closer to their debut album, with piano taking over as the main keyboard sound and passages that sound more like free jazz than prog rock, although the groove usually reasserts itself within a few bars. The 20 minute epic draws to a close with some freeform piano and vocal, having covered a remarkable variety of musical bases. The remaining 3 pieces are all a little more concise at 12 - 13 minutes long, but the sound and style are consistent with the Starstruck. Some of the jazz influences that could be heard on their first outing occasionally pop up, but for the most part it's vintage prog sounds with an avant prog sensibility; if you liked their earlier work, you'll love this.

It's difficult to choose between this album and Daimonji's first release. The greater variety of keyboard sounds and the sharper focus in the playing are definite pluses, but Yoshida's vocals are something of an acquired taste and may be off putting for newcomers. The playing is superb and the interplay between the three musicians is occasionally breathtaking, but this is free improvisation and the sound does get very abstract at times. Four stars, with half a star extra if you're a fan of Japanese avant prog.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#151930)
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
Guldbamsen
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3 stars Sending our long lost family members on their way on wings of fire

I came into this album by way of drummer extraordinaire Tatsuya Yoshida, who's been like a Japanese godfather to all things prog during the last couple of decades. Well he still is actually...When I then heard that he'd teamed up with bassist Mitsuru Nasuno from one of his other bands called Korekyojinn, I started levitating and began to utter strange words in Spanish - even if I only know cerveza and arriba! Damn, I need to get my hands on this!

Finishing this power trio off is Hoppy Kamiyama who apparently is a wellknown character in the Japanese pop world - playing in a band called Pink. Just don't expect this venture to have any sort of reference to pop, choruses, melody lines or layer cake production. No no no - this music was made in front of an audience without any means of direction. Free form improvisation taking you out on adventurous trailblazing tangents. In many ways, Into a Blind Alley is the musical equivalent of sticking your head into a washing machine inhabited by a king cobra, red hot butter and stinging nettles.

Daimonji is to most of us westerners, a word that simply sounds oriental - meaning that it could just as well be a famous liquorice candy floss as a way of ordering bacon in a restaurant: DAIMONJI!!! And be quick about it! Daimonji is in fact the highlight of the ancient cultural O-bon festival in Kyoto, in which the spirits of deceased family members return to the spirit world by way of fire. O-bon is the time of year where these spirits visit our earthly realm, and when the time has come for them to return, 5 bonfires are lit on the mountains above the city enclosing it in a fiery embrace.

Maybe this spiritual fire - sending the ghosts of beloved family members on their way - is now transformed into the sonic universe? Maybe this band has conjured up a new form of musical voodoo that stands instead of the fiery mountainside? Either way, I find the whole history and culture of the name fascinating. When you then start listening to this power trio and what they intend to do with their music, the aforementioned notion suddenly take on life beyond the world of ideas. There is so much power behind this band, and simply calling them a power trio fails to do them justice. This is spiritual release enveloped in musical flaming rage.

Yoshida's drumming on here, for starters, is just relentless and unforgiving. When I first heard this album, I thought it sounded like an enraged man leaving the saloon after a bottle of whiskey and then throwing himself into the drum kit like a missile of meat. The feel of the drums is that of a deep pounding punishing calling - echoing true primal lust - that little part of your brain that remembers the fear of snakes and reptiles.

Even if the music is totally improvised and free, it still has a lot of the same trades you'll find in well structured orchestrated music. I don't know how they've managed to pull this off, but they sure do. Some sort of metaphysical bond that runs through the midst of this band going before anything else - making sure of itself and then appearing like music that sounds like it has been rehearsed and fine- tuned - even if it still has that raw serrated feel to it. If anything, this is something you'll normally find in a jazz band.

Some times you hear each instrument leaving the comfort of their home - they part ways and set sail for the unknown - tearing the 'structure' and music to bits and pieces. The music grows wild and unforgiving, and when you finally think they've truly lost their marbles and the music never ever will return to music again, you hear a subtle breathing keyboard underneath the chaos - binding everything together in a most ingenious way. Nothing short of stunning. I can't tell you just how much I love this particular trade.

Zeuhl, free-jazz, improvisation and loony-toons vocals that remind this listener of a teenage Russian gargling his way through an opera audition, Daimonji's second outing is just about everything I love about adventurous music - and then some! This one comes highly recommended, especially if you adore musical experimentation without a safety net.

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Send comments to Guldbamsen (BETA) | Report this review (#812588)
Posted Thursday, August 30, 2012 | Review Permalink

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