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BONDAGE FRUIT

Zeuhl • Japan


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Bondage Fruit biography
Zeuhl, and particularly good Zeuhl, isn't an exclusively French phenomenon if we are to judge by this excellent Japanese outfit who have built themselves a strong reputation in the Japanese underground. Their material, which borrows more from the European school (MAGMA, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA) than the Japanese new music scene, focuses on avant-garde jazz structures, loud blaring rock'n roll and at times all-out dissonance; it ranges from rock to fusion, to experimental, to ethnic. In addition to the usual rock arsenal, they use the vibraphone, contrebass and violin quite liberally. The singing, which consists of no actual words, is provided by two female jazz vocalists and is treated as an additional instrument, adding a very personal touch to the band's sound.

They have put out six albums to date (including the live "Bondage Fruit III - Récit"), each successive release showing a marked progression towards a more experimental sound, culminating with the all-instrumental ""Bondage Fruit V - Skin". There is also an American release entitled "Selected" (1999) which is a sampler of their first three albums; however, the track selection is surprisingly tame for a band mostly known for its uncompromising ferocity. Their second cd, "Bondage Fruit II" (1996), is considered their very best; it could be described as MAGMA at their most percussive. It is full of heavy, dark tunes, typical Zeuhl hysterical vocals and weird, heavy guitar riffs.

Highly recommended for those brave enough to sample some of the boldest and finest of 90's RIO. Of particular interest to fans of MAGMA, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, UNIVERS ZERO and HAPPY FAMILY.

: : : Lise (HIBOU), CANADA : : :

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BONDAGE FRUIT discography


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BONDAGE FRUIT top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.94 | 58 ratings
Bondage Fruit I
1994
4.28 | 54 ratings
Bondage Fruit II
1996
3.98 | 41 ratings
Bondage Fruit III - Récit
1997
3.48 | 48 ratings
Bondage Fruit IV
1999
3.31 | 23 ratings
Bondage Fruit V - Skin
2002
4.16 | 31 ratings
Bondage Fruit VI
2005

BONDAGE FRUIT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

BONDAGE FRUIT Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

BONDAGE FRUIT Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.35 | 7 ratings
Selected
1999

BONDAGE FRUIT Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

BONDAGE FRUIT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Bondage Fruit I by BONDAGE FRUIT album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.94 | 58 ratings

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Bondage Fruit I
Bondage Fruit Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars The crazy zeuhl sub-genre of progressive rock may have begun in France by Magma creator Christian Vander and then imitated by many others mostly residing with the French territory but after this crazy jazz-rock's country of origin, no other country has helped evolve it beyond its Kobaian roots like Japan has. The Eastern chapter of zeuhl craze caught on in the 80s when Tatsuya Yoshida emerged from nowhere with his band Ruins as it took the bubbling zeuhl rhythms of the French pioneers and turned it all into a highly sophisticated and bombastic mix of zeuhl, avant-prog, math rock, hardcore punk and free improvisation. The Japanese sector of the zeuhl universe has become known as brutal prog in many camps with its relentless attack of all the characteristics of progressive rock turned up to 11 without showing a shred of mercy whatsoever.

After Ruins opened the floodgates of this free-for-all zeuhl-fest, one of the earliest bands to follow suit was the Tokyo based BONDAGE FRUIT which took many of the aspects of Ruins, such as the avant-prog eccentricities of bands like Henry Cow and brutal bombast a la hardcore punk and simmered it all down into a completely new form of martial rhythmic drive that included a whole bunch of new instrumentation hitherto unheard in the genre's French scene. BONDAGE FRUIT was formed in 1990 by guitarist Kido Natsuki, violinist Yuji Katsui and drummer Otsubo Hirohiko. The band emerged from the ashes of another band Deforme and went through many lineups before vocalists Aki and Saga Yuki, percussionist Okabe Youichi and Takara Kuimiko (vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel, percussion) joined ranks and created the band's outstanding self-titled debut which hit the market in 1994.

If that fine collection of instruments wasn't enough, BONDAGE FRUIT also incorporated the talents of vocalists Namie Tokyo and Yen Chang as well as saxophonist Hirose Junji on select tracks. While following in the footsteps of Ruins' manic delivery of percussion run amok with ample doses of noise rock, BONDAGE FRUIT crafted a much steadier flow of musical elements that relied as much on melody as the frenetic callithump of creative instrumental interplay. In addition to the Magma inspired zeuhl rhythms and the haunting choral vocal styles, the band displays a rather Mahavishnu Orchestra inspired style of jazz-fusion that comes through loud and clear on the Ponty-esque violins as well as the Celtic folk tinged guitars that tease in some John McLaughlin. However despite the niceties involved there is still plenty of room for avant-prog angularities such as on "Rigo" which hints at the artier side of the Art Bears or News From Babel.

Lyrics appear to be in neither English, Japanese nor some invented counterpart to Kobaian but rather nonsensical utterances utilized simply as another instrument. BONDAGE FRUIT is a really good album as no tracks are weak and each one resonates a unique personality which makes this album a wonderful listening experience. Tracks like "Octopus-Command" create a cacophonous roar that is as bombastic and brutal as what Ruins dished out which is why Kido and Tatsuya Yoshida would harmonize their passions in the band Korekyojinn that created a similar style of brutal zeuhl that BONDAGE FRUIT constructed on this debut. All in all, this is an excellent mix of musical styles teased into the deeper underpinnings of the zeuhl experience with a diversity that far exceeds anything that came before and while exhibiting an amazingly flamboyant display of weirdness, the album retains firm control of the rhythmic drive and never bursts into chaotic avant-weirdness for its sake alone.

 Bondage Fruit III - Récit by BONDAGE FRUIT album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.98 | 41 ratings

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Bondage Fruit III - Récit
Bondage Fruit Zeuhl

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars I don't get Japanese Zeuhl. I get French Zeuhl, Belgian Avant Garde, UK Rock-in-Opposition, Scandanavian Symphonic and Death Metal, Dutch Neo Prog, Krautrock and Berlin School Electronic, Polish Heavy Prog. I even think I get Rock Progressive Italiano, but I don't get Japanese Zeuhl. I understand that the Japanese are masters of imitation--that they are even capable of taking previously defined forms and elevating them in terms of precision with their virtuoso mastery of their instruments. But I don't get how Japanese bands like Happy Family, Koenji Hyakkei, Ruins, and these guys, Bondage Fruit, fit into the Zeuhl scene. I mean, is there a Japanese translation of Kobaïan? a blood/DNA connection to Egyptian king Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré? a notorized endorsement from Camp Vander?

1. "Odd-job" (11:40) opens like a ROLLING STONES sound check, sounds, pacing, rhythms, and even riffs sound as if they come straight from some Stones song(s). (It turns out that the song may have been recorded in front of a live audience anyway!) When things breakdown into quietude in the third minute, even the vibes seem to remind us that this is a "déjà vu" type of moment as he plays the famous "Twilight Zone" theme riff--which is later picked up and carried by the violinist. As far as I can tell, this is the strongest link to a structural thread that the song has (aside from the drummer's fairly faithful attention to carrying forward a beat on the "ride" or "swish" cymbal). More old 60s early blues-rock riffs are introduced and toyed with over the second half of the song with little effect in inspiring a whole-band ethic until, finally, at the end of the ninth minute, something clicks (sparked by Katsui vocalise?) and everyone starts to really jam--coherently and cohesively. It's truly magical, but really? Nine minutes of [&*!#] to get to this point? Have you ever heard of "practice"? or editing? Can't the drummer and bass player fly all-out like that all the time? (15/20)

2. "Kagee Ga Kieru" (8:18) opens with some very sensitive, melodic, and careful play from vibes, violin, electric guitar, and the occasional bass note. It's beautiful even if it does sound like a ROY BUCHANAN or JEFF BECK piece. And all band members are on the same page--playing what constitutes a loose, contrived weave. Even when drummer Okabe Youichi enters in the fifth minute he is restrained and delicate. (14/15)

3. "Shortwave From Outer Space" (2:52) is a contrived construct to fabricate exactly what the title says it is. Keys, electronics, percussives. I have to admit: it's pretty good. (5/5)

4. Frost And Fire (12:32) opens at a gallop (the drumming literally sounds/feels like a horse's hoofbeats at a running gallop). In the third minute Kido Natsuki's guitar and Katsui Yuji's violin synchronize (bass is mixed way in the background) and mirror one another in trampsing through some Fripp-McLaughlin-like scales of chromatic dissonance. In the third minute the duet becomes a duel as violin drops out and searing guitar surges forward. Very Mahavishnu-like until he starts playing chords, but mostly he's playing single-note runs at breakneck speeds. Six minutes into the song, the guitar solo stops, Kido pairs up again with the violin, until Katsui breaks free to solo over the bare-bones help of Okabe Youichi and Takara Kuimiko's percussion play. Starting out slow, even melodically, Katsui builds and shifts gears as the crazy guitar strumming and percussion play provide the impetus for what becomes an almost deranged solo. Pretty cool. (I still don't get how or why this is "Zeuhl.") The two come back together at the very end to punch and drop dead. (Crowd clapping at the end! WTF?) (8.5/10)

5. "Récit" (28:19) opens with some guitar riffs from YES's song, "Close to the Edge," played over electronic chirping bird sounds. Violin then takes the next shot, playing some Mahavishnu Orchestra-like riffs before the whole band engages in the third minute. As the title suggests, perhaps this song is merely a clever merging of the recitation of many of the most famous or impressive riffs and motifs from the "classic era" of progressive rock music. I cannot name them all, but each individual melodic riff put before the drums and Zeuhlish bass by the guitar, vibes, and/or violin seem so familiar that I feel guilty for not being able to name them immediately. The drum work, once it has begun, remains fairly constant in its breakneck, KEITH MOON-like pace and busy- ness. The other instrumentalists have merely to play whatever they wish--and they do, now mixing separate riffs as if standing alone with the drummer, oblivious to the other band members. I suppose some might find this entertaining, even an exciting intellectual challenge (to solve the "name that tune" mystery puzzle pieces), but I am not of this group. The test for me would be to see the band "recite" this song in full replication in a live setting. (Much of it seems as if it could have been improvised and would, therefore, be quite difficult to replicate. Ever.) Somewhere in the twelfth minute the sound engineer is suddenly called out of the sound booth. Seeing no reason to continue, the band drop their instruments and head off to the lunch room, Thus, around the 13:00 mark we, the listener, are treated to a spacious reprieve as all band members walk out of the studio for their lunch break leaving only vibes player Takara Kuimiko alone with the admonishment, "You need to practice!" After their bento boxes have been emptied, guitarist Kido Natsuki and violinist Katsui Yuji return to tune their instruments while bassist Ohtsubo Hirohiko takes extra time to get out his double bass--which he, likewise, has to tune. All of this, of course, is still being recorded as the sound engineer had to go get take out and forgot to push "pause" on the console. Drummer Okabe Youichi has to eat twice as much as the others as he is expending many more calories than the others, but eventually, in the eighteenth minute, he, too, returns and begins tuning and adjusting his instrument. Somewhere in the twenty-first minute the engineer returns so the band members start to jam just to let him thing that they've been working hard. The odd thing is--and this really surprises the band--is this time it really works! The whole "Close to the Edge" riff jam thing finally comes together into an interactive, full-band explosion. But, then, after about five minutes of that, the band has had enough and try to shut it down, but, as most musicians are rather hard-headed, they can't decide who gets to have the last word so they're all left there standing as the feedback from the amps and monitors slowly decay and fade. (45/60)

6. Kinzoku No Taiji (Live *) (8:39) opens as the whole band, Takara Kuimiko on vibes, bursts into form and function. Bass lines from Ohtsubo Hirohiko are flowing like machine gun fire, the violin sounds as if it's going to start smoking, while Kido Natsuki restrains himself (as long as he can) to wild flailing chord play. After five minutes of "holding space" for others, he can no longer restrain himself, joins the fray of soloists, gradually pushing Katsui Yuji out of the soundscape (he tries to re-approach several times but is thwarted each time--the third time by the vibes!) Now, this, might qualify as Zeuhl--though Mahavishnu Jazz Fusion is more like how I'd describe it. Special shout out: Well done, drummer Okabe Youichi! (20/20)

3.5 stars; an unusual album of Mahavishnu Orchestra-like jazz fusion. The songs often have trouble coming together--seemed improvised--as might give reason to doubt the truth that this was released under the auspices of being a studio album when all but two of the songs have audience clapping at the end. I rate it up for the high amusement factor.

 Bondage Fruit IV by BONDAGE FRUIT album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.48 | 48 ratings

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Bondage Fruit IV
Bondage Fruit Zeuhl

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Of the six albums I own by this band(I don't have the compilation record) this comes dead last and is the only sub 4 star album in my opinion. The next one "Skin" is next lowest but I really give them a lot of credit for doing such a minimalistic album when they are know for being anything but that. And it did grow on me to a low 4 star recording. There's a couple of really good tracks on here in "Prayer" and Storm Bird Storm Dreamer" but just too much annoying experimental and repetitive stuff for my tastes overall.

"Minus One" is led by the guitar, drums and bass early on and this isn't exactly melodic as vibes join in. Different is the word I suppose. Violin after a minute. Lots of percussion too as this plays out. A calm as cymbals clash with drums as the guitar and bass return. This is better than the first part at least. Percussion and vibes return as well.

"Prayer" is sparse to begin with as sounds come and go with plenty of space. The guitar starts to lead playing slowly, bass too. It's moving now after 3 minutes. Violin 4 minutes in as it builds then the drums kick in as the tempo picks up. Some nice guitar here. It settles right back at 5 minutes with bass and drums but the guitar is back quickly. Vibes before 6 minutes.

"Screen Game(Acoustic)" has this extremely bluesy guitar with lots of bass and drums. Some crazy synths too along with organ. A bit of a mess to be honest. "Storm Bird Storm Dreamer" has this loud atmosphere to start that sounds pretty cool. The guitar comes in along with some drums, bass and synths. The wind starts to blow after 4 minutes followed by percussion and that relentless guitar melody. Soon other sounds join in. I like this one a lot. The violin starts to solo over top to the end.

"Sono-Bank" is the over 19 minute epic with fast paced guitar to start as bass and synths join in. Quite an experimental suite this one. Violin around 5 minutes but not for long as the guitar starts to make some noise over the powerful soundscape. Just plain annoying 11 minutes in. A calm 15 minutes in but plenty of atmosphere. The guitar comes in ripping it up before 16 minutes like the intro. "Old Blind Cat" ends it with spacey synths to start as violin and drums take over. Not a fan of this one either. Not a good way to close the album with those two tracks in my opinion.

This Japanese band has put out some incredible albums over the years but this isn't one of them.

 Bondage Fruit VI by BONDAGE FRUIT album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.16 | 31 ratings

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Bondage Fruit VI
Bondage Fruit Zeuhl

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars After a disappointing foray into post-rock on Skin, Bondage Fruit revert to self-titled albums and move on to tackle yet another prog subgenre - this time around, they've dropped the zeuhl and gone for all-out fusion. It's an intriguing mix - with percussion work extremely reminiscent of Pierre Moerlen's Gong, and furious guitar and violin soloing over the top of that in the tradition of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, arriving at a unique fusion mixture which remains vibrant and exciting over the course of the entire album. I wouldn't say it's one of their absolute best, but it's very, very good, and makes me hope for more from the future from the Fruit.
 Bondage Fruit V - Skin by BONDAGE FRUIT album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.31 | 23 ratings

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Bondage Fruit V - Skin
Bondage Fruit Zeuhl

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

2 stars More or less every Bondage Fruit album up to this point saw them evolving their sound by leaps and bounds, but their fifth album may be their greatest departure of all. The fact that it has a title - Skin - is the first clue, but the real shock comes when you listen to it and hear that this band who for the four preceding albums had perfected a fast and furious playing style combining Zeuhl with Crimsonish guitar workouts and threw in some modern influences to round things off - have slowed things waaaay down, and seem to be making some sort of stab at post-rock. Unfortunately, they aren't so adept at creating tension and atmosphere through slow, sparse playing as post-rock veterans such as Godspeed You Black Emperor or Mogwai, and the end result is much less interesting than their prior albums.
 Bondage Fruit IV by BONDAGE FRUIT album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.48 | 48 ratings

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Bondage Fruit IV
Bondage Fruit Zeuhl

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Bondage Fruit changed up their sound once again on this fourth album, taking all-instrumental route and injecting their music with influences ranging from funk to bluegrass to produce a deliriously avant-garde interpretation of the musical world. If P-Funk and the Rolling Stones got together to make a zeuhl album, perhaps the end results would sound something like this - but probably not, because whilst that sort of combination suggests a disjointed mess, somehow Bondage Fruit are able to make their bizarre juxtapositions of genres make some sort of cohesive sense.

At this point, I hesitate to call Bondage Fruit a zeuhl unit - they're way off in their own sonic universe which has very little precedent. At the same time, much like Henry Cow's In Praise of Learning - another avant-prog piece which represents the band in question at their most experimental - I find that it leaves me cold all too often. It's technically interesting and is worth at least one listen on that strength alone, but it doesn't have much staying power, the compositions tending to be dry and having little emotional connection. Part of the problem of jamming together genres quite as diverse as those they play around with here is that if you aren't careful you end up with the musical equivalent of constructing a sentence by selecting random words from a bunch of different languages - yes, it's technically interesting, and if you're really clever you can make the resulting sentence kind of look like it makes some sort of grammatical sense, but it's actually gibberish and there's no deeper meaning to it.

 Bondage Fruit IV by BONDAGE FRUIT album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.48 | 48 ratings

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Bondage Fruit IV
Bondage Fruit Zeuhl

Review by Negoba
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Organic Wild Berry Jam

After finally digesting Magma, I decided to try out some other Zeuhl artists and Bondage Fruit inevitably came into the rotation. Their fourth album was rated their best and I picked it up on that merit. The sound of this record was a surprise, quite a departure from Magma or even more prototypical Japanese Zeuhl like Koenjihyakkei. Instead, we get a mixture of jazz fusion via both Weather Report and Mahavishnu, Krautrock ethic, a touch of Japanese noise, and wild energy. Clearly, the six tracks here are less "songs" than jams with very intentional moods or feels. Some have melodic themes that serve as an anchor, but more often each piece finds its identity in the timbre of the instruments, the groove of the rhythm section, the emotion of the expression. Despite the seemingly very disparate influences I'll describe, the music is surprisingly coherent. A very organic "live in the studio" feel is achieved, and I'm fairly confident these artists would have been very capable of recreating these works live.

1. Minus One - The album opens with a strummed bluesy clean electric guitar riff that quickly gives way to a chaotic mixture of big bass, somewhat abrasive jazz violin, and mallets. The almost Hendrix-y riff periodically brings the mess back to reality several times before it gets to tiresome. There is also one shared melodic line that adds some sanity. Well done, but my least favorite song on the album. Luckily, the album gets progressively better as is goes.

2. Prayer - Just when we thought we were in for an hour of loose jazz-rock jams, in comes a swampy guitar playing a remarkably straight two-note groove. Bluesy harmonica and guitar remind of a Chicago night club late on Thursday night or maybe early Friday morning. After this mood is established, there are intermittent druggy passages that seem like scenes in a film noir movie.

3. Screen Game - From slowly bluesy drugged out swamp to the real thing. A quick slide guitar opens this one before the drums and keys enter with an intensity that seems like an out of control carnival train. This piece has some small melodic motifs that hold the solo sections together. This is the quirkiest and most unique of the tracks, as if the best jam band at Bonnaroo said "Ok, now that we've rocked your sox, now we're going to REALLY go crazy."

4. Storm Bird Storm Dreamer - the groove on this song is provided by a very fast strummed acoustic guitar that continues with little variation for 12 minutes. (I can't imagine the muscle fatigue this must have caused.) This constant allows for some of the widest excursions and improvisation on the album. Wild proggy key tones, soaring violin lines, and rapid walking bass solos over the rhythm bed which includes some nice tribal-tinged drumming. One of my favorites of the album.

5. Sono-bank - Starts with another clean guitar funk riff which quickly morphs into a much more complex, somewhat polyrhythmic base track. By two minutes in, the piece is very free form while still maintaining its constant, fast pulse. Again, this anchor is what makes these wild experimentations work for me. Similar pieces by other bands that float without real time are just too chaotic for me. This is a bit overlong to be sure, but if you're familiar with instrumental space jams, this won't bother too much.

6. Old Blind Cat - Opens in typical space-jam echoes before a blue-grassy fiddle over tabla!! established the groove. Along with chanting and slide guitar, this song finishes the album on a quirky happy note.

Bottom line...this ain't Zeuhl but it's really good. It's not the most ambitious work, but it does what it attempts to do very well. 3.5 stars rounded up for energy. For fans of jazz-fusion, space rock, Krautrock, and trippy fun.

 Bondage Fruit III - Récit by BONDAGE FRUIT album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.98 | 41 ratings

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Bondage Fruit III - Récit
Bondage Fruit Zeuhl

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This live album sees Bondage Fruit moving even further away from the zeuhl heartland they originated in - in fact, for much of the album they resemble an even more noisy and harder-rocking version of King Crimson circa Larks' Tongues In Aspic, with a few heavy doses of jazz fusion and a slide order of plain old rock and roll to spice things up. It's a high-energy mix which doesn't seem quite as original as their brilliant second album - at points the resemblance to mid-1970s King Crimson approaches the uncanny - but they visit an impressive enough range of styles that the album will be worth a listen for all zeuhl, RIO, fusion and eclectic prog fans at some point in their exploration of the band's works, even if I don't personally put it in the top tier of their work.
 Bondage Fruit II by BONDAGE FRUIT album cover Studio Album, 1996
4.28 | 54 ratings

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Bondage Fruit II
Bondage Fruit Zeuhl

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars On Bondage Fruit's debut album was a confident showcase of their ability to master the techniques of zeuhl as set down by Magma. On this album, they blow the roof off the genre, doing more to expand the range of sounds and influences that could go into a zeuhl album than any band since Magma themselves; if anything, they sound at points on the verge of coming up with their very own genre unique to them.

As well as the usual Magma influence, listeners can expect Zappa-esque contributions on vibraphone and marimba from Takara Kumiko, a hint of the dark intensity of the more aggressive side of King Crimson, and the influence of more modern groups in punk and noise rock all coming together to create a modern prog sound like no other band. I exhort all fans of aggressive, complex prog - not just zeuhl - to sample this magnificent album; it's easily one of the most overlooked albums of mid-1990s prog.

 Bondage Fruit I by BONDAGE FRUIT album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.94 | 58 ratings

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Bondage Fruit I
Bondage Fruit Zeuhl

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Bondage Fruit's debut album is a remarkably well-realised presentation of the band's unique sound, which takes the standard zeuhlish martial rhythms and applies a diverse compositional approach to it and an unusual set of instruments (for a zeuhl band) in order to achieve a sonic atmosphere which, whilst bearing the heritage of Magma here or there, is otherwise entirely original to the band. Kastui Yuji's violin deserves particular mention, Yuji displaying both an enviable virtuosity and an extensive capacity to rock out; at points I am reminded of the amazing violin solo at the end of Baba O'Riley, and any band capable of bridging Magma and The Who is surely one to watch.
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