This irrefutably impressive Japanese progressive rock outfit is led by talented female keyboardist Yuka Funakoshi. The the first seven tracks are based on the Greek mythology Argo, named after the ship Jason and the Argonauts used to retrieve the Golden Fleece. And of course, mythological topics along with intergalactic space travel are relatively common threads for progressive rock bands, largely due to the late 1960s emergence and integration of Moog and Arp synthesizers into rock idioms.
Vocalist Sonja Kristina of the legendary prog rock ensemble, Curved Air, kicks things off atop Funakoshi's gentle piano phrasings and the sound of creaky wooden vessels on the brief opening track, "ArgoTears of the Figurehead." But for the remainder of the album, the keyboardist handles the voice-as-instrument duties along with vocalist Hiroyuki Izuta.
The seven Argo-themed tracks include guitarist Takashi Miyazawa's penetrating crunch chords, and reverberating leads amid Funakoshi's multi-functional treatments, including dramatic buildups, harp and harpsichord samples, poetic piano clusters and lyrical synth lines. Hence, each piece is composed with a harmonious theme, regardless of momentum, as these works remain fresh and enlivening throughout. And there's not a hint of filler material to be found.
On "ArgoA Dragon That Never Sleeps," they execute an up-tempo jazz rocker via the guitarist's fancy fretwork and complex unison lines with Funakoshi's climactic crescendos and soaring extended synth notes. Blissful mellotron interludes, whirling unison runs and traces of classic era Genesis surface on "Visible Light," where Miyazawa seemingly emulates Steve Hackett's streaming sustain notes while Funakoshi's fluid synth phrasings spin the quartet into a feverish 4/4 groove towards the finale. The musicians finalize the invigorating set with a lighthearted, melodic and joyful little ditty, "Did You Find a Star?"
The band formed in 2009, and is perhaps not well-known on these US shores, but all serious prog rock devotees should not let this wonderful outing slip by. Ship is a near flawless musical event, devised with top-shelf compositional prowess and superb musicianship. Indeed, it's a luminous musical statement that helps raise the bar for modern era progressive rock.
Track Listing: Argo – Tears of the Figurehead; Argo – The Ship Argos; Argo – Landing; Argo – Golden Fleece; Argo– A Dargon
That Never Sleeps; Argo – Islands in the Stream; Argo – Return; The Air Ship of Jean Giraud; Visible Light; Old
Ship on the Grass; Did You Fina a Star?.
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