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Tipographica — Floating Opera
(Sistema SICD-1, 1997, CD)

Floating Opera Cover art

Hate to start a review off with bad news, but sadly these guys broke up about four weeks after this excellent fourth album was released. At least they called it a day while they were still smokin' hot and at their peak — no Love Beach or Civilian for these guys. Hopefully the individual members will keep up the momentum that they collectively started. This, like the three before it, challenges all the standard, well-traveled musical sensibilities and demands that you listen to it. The lineup is the same seven-piece that played on the previous Live album, complete with saxes and trombones. No measure is complete without a couple time and key changes, dropped beats and missing notes. Very twisted but really cool. Like a puzzle that can only be figured out while one is listening, it's chamberjazzrock at its finest and most angular, yet this more than any of Tipographica's earlier studio releases seems to have a bit more punch and overall variety as an album, and as a result more accessibility too. Anyone who's been curious about what these guys are all about might do well to get on board here and then work backward if so inclined.

by Peter Thelen, Published 1998-02-01

Tipographica's fourth (and supposedly last) release finds them holding true to their already-established form, but it also adds a healthy dose of something new to the mix: the use of sequencing, electronics, and computerized audio processing tools. The uncanny thing is the way guitarist and band-leader Tsuneo Imahori seamlessly integrates this cutting-edge technology within the framework of his wickedly complex songwriting without the two clashing or working against each other; it's a perfect mesh of man and machine throughout this album. Four tunes in particular (named after the date of origin) are short vignettes that rely almost 100% on electronics. Other places the digital trickery is used purely as embellishment, while the core musicians flail away with jaw-dropping virtuosity, which we've come to expect from these Japanese wizards of avant-jazz-rock. But that's not all that's fresh and exiting here: there's a piano solo on the opening track which starts with a simple glissando up the keyboard and then slowly builds into an Area-esque frantic bit of fireworks, there's the lengthy acoustic guitar solo which is bookended by a comical lumbering theme on "The King," and there's the addition of permanent seventh man Gen Ogimi on auxiliary percussion. Floating Opera is a far cry from Tipographica's debut, which was dominated by cute, light, and loose arrangements. Here, there's a ton more punch and energy. This is high-tech, high-intelligence, high-spirited grooving which joyously spills over abundantly and never disappoints. A truly great band has somehow gotten even better. Certainly the best release of their stunning career, certainly the best release of this year, and quite possibly the best and most far-reaching album of the 90s.

by Dan Casey, Published 1998-02-01

The great Tipographica's swan song — and although I hate to say it, it's probably a good idea, since, regardless of how innovative the band really is, they seem to have been repeating themselves of late (the various band members will flourish in new environments, I'm sure). The jumpy start-and-stop RIO / Zappa like fusion group was a revelation on their debut, and with the extended guitar solos and jams on their second and live album, Tipographica seemed to be making headway at an alarming rate. I would have loved to have seen them live.  Not that God Says I Can't Dance wasn't great, but in many ways it could have been interchangeable with their debut — it was almost like a recap of the first half of their career. Floating Opera isn't an album I can say is stuck in a rut, after all there are more pure jazz tendencies (and I mean tendencies, by no means are Tipographica jazz or jazz-rock) and the last 15 or so minutes goes way out there into avant garde territory — new directions for the group; yet much of the music here is undeniably predictable even for this stop-and-start-on-a-dime ensemble. Both the title track and "Highway as a Samurai Play" break no new ground, and it's only as the album goes on do we see a few twists on the typical style. There are even some somber parts that sound like Tipographica is sad to be disbanding and a couple of jams to boot (unfortunately none of those incredible guitar solos I'm used to hearing). And yes, I'm sad for them as well, they gave us four albums of high quality, their final stage call being more than worth a listen.

by Mike McLatchey, Published 1998-02-01

Filed under: New releases, Issue 14, 1997 releases

Related artist(s): Tipographica


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