Album Remarks & Appraisals:
The creator of two of the most fascinating releases on the New Japan series, (Izutsu and Red Moon) Ayuo now turns his hand to one of the most curious of all Japanese musical forms, the Noh play. Mixing the feeling and sounds of psychedelic with an ancient tradition through the voice and instruments, Aoi no Ue is another masterpiece from one of Japans most prolific and eclectic musical minds. Aldo included here are two lush instrumentals and a minimalist suite for solo piano.
Personnel: Tomoka Nagasu (vocals, biwa, shakuhachi); Kazuko Takada (vocals); Yuji Takahashi (piano).
Audio Mixer: Maeda Motohiko.
Following the exquisite Red Moon collaboration with Ohta Hiromi, Ayuo returns to another medieval Noh play as a source, Aoi No Ue, also written by Zeami in the 14th century. However, unlike Izutsu, pieces not based on the Noh source material also appear on Aoi. "Aoi No Ue" is certainly the centerpiece of the album, lasting more than 20 minutes. It's a good deal more sparse than anything on Red Moon, with Ayuo's electric guitar ranging from ominously distorted to chiming and pretty and interacting with shakuhachi, biwa, and vocals. "A Stranger" and "Oh Light of My Heart" are both multi-tracked instrumentals that closely resemble the lush settings on Red Moon, with sitar-guitar and bouzouki prominent among layers of guitars. Ayuo has a fabulous assortment of tones and a knack for spacious arrangements, and the tunes themselves are beautiful. "On the Morning of March 1, 2005" is a lovely improvisation on solo bouzouki. Rounding out the program are a couple of solo piano pieces (played by Ayuo's father, Yuji Takahashi) that were originally commissioned for a dance performance. The first piece draws heavily from minimalism, maintaining the same rhythmic thrust as the melody shifts behind the rhythms. The second is basically the same composition, but on this performance the rhythms fracture and become slightly disjointed, although the melody is still discernible. These pieces are far different from anything else Ayuo has released stateside, and really speak of his abilities as a composer, not just a player. Because Aoi is basically four distinct sessions, it doesn't hang together as an album quite as well as his previous efforts (though savvy sequencing helps greatly). However, it does give an indication of the breadth of Ayuo's talents as a genre-smashing composer and instrumentalist. ~ Sean Westergaard
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