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(19 min, Poseidon)
TRACK LIST: 1. Crusader 3:44 2. Karma 3:25 3. Blue Rice 3:26 4. Over the Line 3:38 5. Epic 5:13 LINEUP: Miki Fujimoto - violin Junpei Ozaki - guitar Masatomo Nakashima - guitar Yoichi Suzuki - keyboards Kentaro Yoshida - bass Masakazu Sato - drums
Prolusion. This is the debut release by the Japanese sextet FANTASMAGORIA. The material was recorded live at Star Pine's Cafe in Tokyo on June 13, 2004.
Analysis. I think energetic Jazz-Fusion would be the best overall definition of what Fantasmagoria has presented on their "Energetic" album, though there also are elements of West European medieval and Baroque music in places. Each of the band members shows a very solid musicianship, and their joint performance is damn good and tight in most cases. The originality of their compositional approach is beyond question, but on the stylistic level there is a certain relationship between Fantasmagoria and their more well-known countrymen KBB, which is obvious throughout the recording - mainly just from the fact that violins play the first violin here (readers please excuse the banal pun). The medieval flavors are particularly striking in the harpsichord-like prelude to the heady opener, Crusader, and also in the episodes with sampled sounds of church organ on the final track, Epic, the implied timbre colors imparting a certain dose of spirituality to the music. Crusader leaves a pleasant impression overall, though its thematic development isn't as vivid as I would like it would. There are no meter changes here, but the set's speedy tempo as such, in conjunction with the band's rapid, jazz-inflected maneuvers (particularly in the second half of the piece), makes the piece sound surprisingly exquisite. Karma is anxious in mood and is more diverse and complex than the preceding composition, being especially notable for amazingly complicated, exclusively odd rhythmic structures. It would've been a killer had it been richer in speedy solo passages and were more imbued with dynamism. Blue Rice is my least favorite track on the CD. There are only three different themes here - the first two being trivial, in addition. While the first one is at least filled with energy, another exerts a tranquilizing effect upon me and is too flat in general. The finale is a tasteful, emotionally saturated interplay between guitar and violin, although structurally it's quite simple. The rhythmically pronounced Over the Line is highly attractive, with an expressive melodic line running all through it, the overall arrangements becoming more and more jazz-oriented as the piece unfolds. The last track, Epic, is the highlight of the album. It can in many ways be considered an epic indeed, regardless of the fact that its duration just barely exceeds five minutes. Simply put, the composition is multi-sectional in construction, featuring plenty of unexpected turns and twists, which keep it very interesting throughout.
Conclusion. The obvious virtues of this material are equally matched by the mastery that the musicians demonstrate throughout the recording (a live recording, please note this) and by their independent, at times distinctly innovative compositional thinking. The compositions present would have acquired even more versatility if the Classical-like tunes were in direct juxtaposition with Jazz-Fusion textures. Overall, the first step Fantasmagoria has taken on the progressive scene seems to be enough convincing to expect something special from this band in the future.
VF: February 26, 2006
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