Mr. Sirius — Dirge
(Nexus KICS 2525, 1989/1994, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1994-10-01
When considering the finest releases of the Japanese symphonic rock scene, the first two albums by Mr. Sirius come to mind immediately, not only for their apparent absence of any immediately obvious influences, but also because of the crafty compositions, superb musicianship, tight arrangements, and outstanding vocals of Hiroko Nagai. Those albums are Barren Dream (1987) and Dirge (1990). Both were only sporadically available in the states and quickly went out of print; now Dirge has been reissued, and hopefully the first will be soon to follow. The lineup at that point was Kazuhiro Miyatake (aka Mr. Sirius — flute, acoustic guitar and keys), Hiroko Nagai (aka Lisa Ohki, ex-Pageant — vocals and chorus), Chihiro Fujioka (drums), Hidehiko Muraoka (bass), and Shigekazu Kamaki (ex-Mugen, later of Kehell — guitars). The synergy of the five musicians is evidenced throughout these seven tracks: it's not clear if the the pieces were penned by Mr. Sirius himself or Mr. Sirius the band, but each of these is truly a group effort, a solid and powerful statement by five musicians sharing a common purpose. Their sound relies on gentle subtleties (acoustic guitars, flute) juxtaposed with moments of power (heavy symphonics, screaming guitar leads), often seemingly disconnected, evoking a different feeling from one moment to the next. Musically and emotionally, Mr. Sirius have very successfully done what The Enid tried to achieve on Region of Summer Stars, or Quasar failed to do on The Loreli — that is to integrate a symphonic texture into the very fabric of rock, giving the result an orchestral character. Add to that some periodic reminders of Gentle Giant, Genesis, UK, possibly even some vague Canterbury characteristics at times, and you're getting close. Noteworthy tracks include the gentle "Sea Dirge,” "A Love Incomplete,” and the 22 minute "The Nile for a While,” an emotionally complex and melodically sophisticated tour-de-force that delivers while giving ample evidence that there's still plenty of room for growth and exploration within the symphonic realm. Excellent from beginning to end. Lyrics are in English, by the way.
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From the press release:
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water takes from Echo Us' past and spins it into a whole new direction, one closer to traditional acoustic Celtic music than ever before.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water was composed and recorded during the first few months of 2017. Although Celtic influenced and comprised of a number of re-workings of Irish folk tunes and Breton aires, the album is still in large part new and original Echo Us music that fits right in the Echo Us ‘canon’. “Wake” is a natural progression from “A Priori Memoriae”, which was released to critical acclaim in Europe in 2014.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is Echo Us’ ‘Celtic’ album that was planned for a long time but never executed because of the work on the trilogy that came before it. The album title is a typical ‘Echo Us’ play on words which one can find their own meaning.
“It is also both evocative of the Oregon rain, which I am told is not too unlike the rain in Ireland.”(Matthews)
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is also a comment on conception- which was unintentional when the lyric was written. Matthews surprised himself a few months after writing it, realizing that the song was actually about the nitty gritty, biological workings of what happens when a child is conceived. The folk song it derives from musically describes a courting ritual, one that even today we can all relate to in our own way.
“Come With Me Over the Mountain" in acapella was the musical inspiration for the song, and came into my consciousness after the lyrics were written a few months prior. “ (Matthews)
As with all Echo Us recordings, a number of seeming coincidences resulted in connections being drawn where prior there were none. Another experience of similar capacity was found in oboe samples from A Priori Memoriae that echoed the traditional “May Morning Dew’, also reworked for guitar on the new album.