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Sadistic Mika Band - Kurofune (Black Ship) CD (album) cover


Sadistic Mika Band


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3.89 | 9 ratings

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4 stars The second LP from Japan's Sadistic Mika Band is not only a good entry point for newcomers, but from a Prog Rock perspective is easily their creative zenith. The album succeeded in raising the band's profile outside their own country, in part by trading the perceived (but calculated?) na´vetÚ of their 1973 debut for a more confident Anglo-influenced sound, hardly an unfair exchange given the strength of the material here. A high-profile tour supporting ROXY MUSIC didn't hurt their growing reputation either.

The musicianship throughout is world-class, ranging from pinpoint fusion pyrotechnics to heavy rock power chords to dreamy Oriental psychedelia. The ethereal multi-tracked vocals in the album opener "Sumie No Kuni E" (separated into opposite channels, one voice singing and the other speaking) was a particular stroke of stylistic genius. As was the dramatic segue into the steamroller riffing of "Time Machine", enough to send any closet air-guitarist pounding his fists to the sky.

The band's native Asian culture surfaces at the start of Side Two, but the Far Eastern flavor was undermined in the tongue-in-cheek manner of early FAUST by a defiantly amateur saxophone, and by the ubiquitous funky crunch of a clavinet. Elsewhere, the album's three-part title track (a.k.a. "Black Ship", but the English song names are new to me: all the text on my imported LP is in runic Japanese) really allows the band to show its chops, shifting from manic jamming to a high-caliber Arena Rock anthem with testosterone to spare, all of it captured in the full-blooded production of ace engineer Chris Thomas, one of the premier studio gurus of the 1970s.

It's true that the original ersatz-glam spirit of the band was somewhat compromised by the move to London, where to a certain degree their foreignness was sold as a musical novelty. And the project would soon disintegrate when the husband/wife team of guitarist Kazuhiko and singer Mika Kato sailed into rocky marital waters: see the inaptly-titled "Hot! Menu" album, recorded the following year. But for the time being, as depicted in the fanciful cover photo here, the group was flying high.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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