(All Album Reviews by gsk42)
Yoh Ohyama: gut guitar, glockenspiel
Yoshihiro Kawagoe: piano
Misa Kitatsuji: violin
Kaori Tsutsui: clarinet, recorder
Kanako Ito (guest): voice
After a rather lengthy hiatus of no less than twelve years, Asturias, the once acclaimed symphonic rock band from Japan, have returned. Formerly, in a manner analogous to the likes of Mugen, Outer Limits or Mr. Sirius, their style was laden with keyboard orchestrations and lavish, high-flown arrangements which undoubtedly drew comparisons with the legendary greats of the 1970s. Whereas the others were influenced so proudly, and so heavily, by the likes of King Crimson, Genesis or Renaissance, Asturias’ lush atmospheres brought to mind Mike Oldfield, most notably, as well as Gandalf, to a lesser extent. Their three fine efforts, Circle In The Forest, Brilliant Streams and Cryptogram Illusion had established them as one of Japan’s better, more adept, bands of the period.
Now, many years hence, guitarist Yoh Ohyama, the brains behind the band, has undertaken a project far removed from glories past. For those expecting wall-to-wall mellotron and synthesizer bombast, and likewise a complex form of rock with grandiose orchestrations and soaring guitars, Bird Eyes View instead is a classically referenced piece of music, similar to an obscure project from 1989 led by Motoi Sakuraba (Deja-Vu) and Katsuhiko Hayashi (Mugen), which went under the name Pazzo Fanfano Di Musica. In a strikingly similar fashion, we have chamber-styled music performed in a formal manner, all done with authentic instruments and flowing together via five musical frescoes, much like one would here at a recital.
The regrettably short (25 minutes) work is divided into five distinct, yet related, pieces – each brimming with effervescence and joy, all superbly supported by each performer. Although the work of the piano, reeds and classical guitar is outstanding, the prominence and elegance of the violin stood out most profoundly for me. What could be an otherwise too-formal musical experience for some (note, no electric instruments are used and there is no rock elements whatsoever) is given immediacy and “lightness” due to Kitatsuji’s expressive playing. She is wonderfully playful and virtuosic on her instrument.
The performances and thus the music are first-rate, no doubt. How one receives such a work depends on both their ability to enjoy music of a serious, formal nature and that which does not owe anything at all to rock. This is music with a erudition I really enjoy. Not overly complex per se, it is arranged in a very opulent way, with many colors and sounds reaching out and touching the senses. My recommendation comes with a caveat, however. Owing to the pleasure one might receive with music such as this, it does end painfully soon. Duration of enjoyment, ultimately, is a forgivable flaw: No ideas are fleshed out uselessly, no dross threatens the momentum of the work. Bird Eyes View is a beautiful statement, its longevity notwithstanding.