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.
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