Akiko's Cosmo Space — Julähsica to This Wonderful Day
(Musea MP-3308, 2015, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2016-01-02
Those who know Akiko Takahashi only from her role as drummer in various incarnations of the Japanese instrumental keyboard-heavy trio Ars Nova may be in for a big surprise on this, the first release of her solo project Akiko’s Cosmo Space. Julähsica means Cheers!, and indeed the twelve tunes herein are a joyful celebration of the wider range of Takahashi’s musical interests, not only as a drummer, but as a capable songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist, enlisting friends from her other band Marble Sheep (guitarist Ken Matsutani and bassist Rie Miyazaki), guitarist and singer Bill Berends from Mastermind, as well as guitarist Takashi Mizoguchi, upright bassist Yasushi Tanaka, tuba player Toru Takada, and ehru player Yoshimi Inoue, along with recording engineer Miho Muira. If one tries to come up with a convenient genre to classify all of what’s here, one will certainly be left scratching their head in bewilderment. Cosmic? Not really, at least in the sense of the cosmiche sound pioneered by folks like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze. Is it Space Rock? There are definitely some strong space rock / psychedelic threads on several of the songs herewithin, but it’s only a small part of the overall vista. More than anything, this is in solid avant-garde progressive territory, very experimental and very Japanese. Takahashi sings on every track, sometimes supported by Berends and backing vocals from others, sung in “cosmo sweetie language,” and occasionally English and Japanese; in the booklet the lyrics for every song are translated to English and Japanese, and listeners steeped in Japanese progressive rock of the 80s and 90s should have no trouble with the vocal stylings. For her part, Takahashi plays (in addition to drum kit) keyboards, mallet percussion, tympani, all songwriting and production. All taken, this is an adventurous and playful romp through a fantastic array of musical styles and avant-garde arrangements.
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more