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Free Love - Overall Review

Prolusion. FREE LOVE is a Japanese quartet having two strangely titled releases on the Poseidon label, "Official Studio Demo" and "Official Live Bootleg". Both were released earlier this year, although the studio material was recorded in 2001. Inasmuch as the 'bootleg' features only two new tracks (running 18 minutes), and the other two are just light variations on their studio counterparts, I decided to describe both outings within the same review.

1) 2006 - "Official Studio Demo" (30 min)
2) 2006 - "Official Live Bootleg" (33 min)


Disc 1:
1.  Incubus 1:40
2.  Electric Serpent 4:57
3.  Maze of Psycho 6:18
4.  Sunrise 9:44
5.  Spiral 7:24

Disc 2:

1.  Long Way To Kashmir 3:51
2.  Spiral 7:01
3.  Maze Of Psycho 8:28
4.  Shangri-La 14:42


Hiroki Shibata - guitar; vocals
Hiroki Matsui - organ, synthesizers
Atsushi Motohashi - drums
Tatsuya Ai - bass 
Yuji Hayakawa - bass 

Analysis. So, Free Love have had time to craft six original compositions thus far. If you allow me to begin with the weaker ones, Sunrise will open the list of such. Although I can't upbraid the band for sounding derivative in this particular case, the song is artificially overextended, the disproportion between its length and its musical interest being immediately striking. The mood and the sound undergo two changes each - from peaceful to heroic and from mellow to heavy respectively, but the music as such remains invariably ballad-like in character, with a schematic couplet-refrain approach. Hiroki Shibata's English sounds over-accented even to my Russian ears. That being said, this problem affects the entire creation, so I'd recommend that the band write lyrics in their native language in future. Incubus and Long Way To Kashmir are parodies of Queen and Led Zeppelin respectively, but these are at least short. To be fair however, I have to contradict myself now and say that they aren't devoid of some certain elegance, at least in places. In particular, the former has a nice Oriental music-inflected movement in the finale. The other tracks are better, all showing that Free Love and self-preservation (here, from alien ideas:-) aren't incompatible matters. Another instrumental piece Spiral reminds me in some ways of a three-storied building. The first floor is decorated with colors of Minimalist music, the second with those darker, referring to Doom Metal, and the last is the haven of symphonic Space Rock, each of the next ones looking more and more attractive. The only significant problem I have with Spiral is that the players too long scurry about the first two floors before reaching the upper storey. The conga- and vocal-laden initial theme of Electric Serpent is somewhat pompous to my taste, while its reiteration is surely unwarranted. Subsequent events are much more interesting and are much in the style of the two remaining tracks, Maze of Psycho and Shangri-La, both of which are excellent in all senses, at least within their genre category. The music is genuinely progressive (guitar- and organ-driven) Hard Rock at times bordering on Prog-Metal with occasional excursi to quasi Jazz-Fusion.

Conclusion. Although the history of this outfit spans no less than five years, it seems as if they've had no time to gather together often enough to determine an overall direction for their creativity. Both collections indicate that Free Love are still at a crossroads, stuck somewhere between Rock and Prog, roughly speaking. Hopefully their real debut album will feature much less sign of 'debut syndrome' than these do.

VM: June 7, 2006

Related Links:

Poseidon Records


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