Sunday, 3 November 2013
Amakudari from prognotfrog [requested] (Canada 1987)
"Amakudari (descent from heaven) is the institutionalised practice where Japanese senior bureaucrats retire to high-profile positions in the private and public sectors. The practice is increasingly viewed as corrupt and a drag on unfastening the ties between private sector and state which prevent economic and political reforms."-- from Wikipedia.
"It is also the name of a group which produced a completely unknown album in Toronto, Canada (by the CBC) in 1987 and disappeared without a trace, although they resurfaced 2 years ago with a follow up. They mixed an ethnic sound with well-crafted acoustic guitars, judiciously using some sitar, with very masterful compositions. The overall production sounds more like chamber music than new age because of the quality of the writing and use of piano and string instrument accompaniment in many places.
Listen to the E minor patterns in the second song, "Childhood yearned" which using the flat 7th and 6th (i.e. notes d and c sharp) perfectly convey the emotional state of nostalgia. As usual a cello playing sustained notes provides the deeper undercurrent of sadness. Suddenly the song will modulate into D minor, then A minor, then G minor, which is what separates it from the usual trancelike stuff which typically operates entirely within one key or even whole songs never stray from one chord. Although the titles definitely seem to suggest new age (shaman, incantation, caves, etc.) we wouldn't hesitate to classify this as progressive music.
"Ghosts of Christmas past" (terrible song title choice) in G minor weaves a melody with major third, minor third, minor sixth, second, virtually every chromatic note is used. In this case a xylophone I think has been brought in to accompany the sitar. The last song, "Whale song" has some nice soft synth waves under gorgeous guitar arpeggios. There is the customary and unfortunate middle section of whale song effects before the previous chords pick up again to finish out. Too bad no reference was made to the finnish, icelandic, and in particular japanese IWC attempts to lift the moratorium on commercial whaling-- thousands of whales are killed and served to schoolchildren in Japan -- although the IWC allows them to be killed for 'scientific purposes'.
Although they are well aware of the celebrated intelligence of the cetaceans, not many people out there are aware that the majority of species including the right, the sperm, and the magnificent blue are still very much in danger of extinction. This is not going to stop the aforementioned countries from stacking the deck with political bribes to finally lift the moratorium on whale-hunting, an event expected to happen at the next meeting in a couple of years. By then presumably the insatiable appetite for bluefin tuna (maguro) will exterminate this magnificent animal as well."
This is a great album to preserve, just like the aforementioned whales, full of mysterious beauty, a 'new age' album that straddled the world of progressive ethnic music and the later slightly insipid new age movement. Musically, it's simply gorgeous.