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Hikashu: Uragoe (2012)

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Hikashu: Uragoe How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Hikashu is the main outfit of extraordinary Japanese vocal artist Koichi Makigami, whose career has covered over thirty years, countless personnel changes and equally inestimable collaborations with vocal improvisers and other free-spirited musicians across the States and Europe. Uragoe is an excellent representation of this unique quintet: it rocks, it improvises, and it is funny and eccentric.

The quintet serves as a trusty vehicle for Makigami's boundless energy, theatric and acrobatic vocal articulations, and idiosyncratic ability to tell elaborate stories while simultaneously presenting conflicting characters with his vocal mastery. The musical language of this quintet spans progressive rock and muscular fusion, and demonstrates a strong collective will to improvise and experiment with reckless punk-rock energy.

Some of the songs ("Fude o Fure, Kanata-Kun (Wave the Brush, Mr. Beyond)," "Hitori Hokai (Collapsing by Oneself)") feature Makigami's eccentric vocal storytelling and admirable command of the theremin, cornet and plastic shakuhachi. Other often short ones ("Chiisaku Ikizuku (Slightly Alive)," "Sudeni Kokoni Nai (Gone Already)," "Shikotama (Plenty)," "Beniten Ni Kurenai (Crimson in the Cloud)") experiment with invented poetic texts and improvised sounds by different band members.

The title song, "Asagata No Nou (Twilight Affirmation, Morning Denial)" and "Umaretate No Hana (A Newly Born Flower)" are dramatic and emotional ballads that are not shy to present healthy doses of sentimentality. "Sokohaka (Faintly)" is an open improvisation that changes its rhythm and energy abruptly. The album is concluded with an extended, energetic free jam that feature the quintet's virtuoso interplay, the same way that Hikashu's live shows are ended. All the songs and improvisations sound as part of a long, organic song-cycle.

Uragoe is a wild ride in the colorful, tempting and often eccentric world of Makigami, but the joy is guaranteed.

Track Listing: Fude o Fure, Kanata-Kun (Wave the Brush, Mr. Beyond); Chiisaku Ikizuku (Slightly Alive); Uragoe; Haraburi (The First Time in the Original); Hitori Hokai (Collapsing by Oneself); Sudeni Kokoni Nai (Gone Already); Bintoru (Take a Bottle); Sokohaka (Faintly); Yuugata No Iesu, Asagata No Nou (Twilight Affirmation, Morning Denial); Shikotama (Plenty); Beniten Ni Kurenai (Crimson in the Cloud); Umaretate No Hana (A Newly Born Flower); Tsugi No Iwa Ni Tsuzuku (Continued on Next Rock).

Personnel: Makigami Koichi: vocal, cornet, theremin, shakuhachi; Mita Freeman: guitar; Sakaide Masami: bass; Shimizu Kazuto: piano, synthesizer, bass clarinet; Sato Masaharu: drums.

Record Label: Makigami Records


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