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(58 min, Musea & InterMusic)
TRACK LIST: 1. Twelfth Tree 3:51 2. Blue Planet 5:20 3. Crimson Carpet 4:46 4. Nusa Dua 6:11 5. Kesaran Patharan 5:26 6. Sonatine-1 5:02 7. Sonatine-2 4:15 8. Sonatine-3 4:35 9. Flying Seed 6:34 10. Soft Nothing 5:59 11. UT06 6:24 LINEUP: Luna Umegaki - keyboards; programming Tsutomu Kurihara - guitars
Prolusion. LU7 is a Japanese duo of keyboardist Luna Umegaki and guitarist Tsutomu Kurihara. "Efflorescence" is their second official release, following "L'Esprit de L'Exil" from 2005. In reality, however, this is their first album (recorded four years ago), hence its title. The CD is manufactured by Musea Records, who are also responsible for its worldwide distribution, but nonetheless it is LU7 themselves who have defrayed all the expenses of its production.
Analysis. This recording is a pale copy of the duo's first release, much less sonically saturated, in which is no surprise though, since the lineup on "L'Esprit de L'Exil" includes eight more participants (some being chamber musicians), those forming a rhythm section being featured on all tracks. I have nothing against a duo format within the Progressive Rock genre, but only in the event the musicians play many instruments - preferably drums too. As LU7 aren't broad specialists, their "Efflorescence" has a synthetic, at times even a wooden-like sound, suggesting to me the thought that everything I hear could've easily been elicited from a single up-to-date modern synthesizer - excluding the guitar of course. Thematically the album is built upon quite a primitive scenario and represents a collection of slow ballads and pieces with a more diverse and dynamic content, which in most cases simply alternate with each other. Blue Planet, the first two parts of Sonatine and UT06 are each light, tranquil, relaxing symphonic-like music whose ambient nature leaves me absolutely cold, though I think some people might find it perfect as a background for contemplation. Credited as the author of the entire work, Luna Umegaki (who plays keyboards, additionally using synthy-bass and programmed drums), bosses almost everywhere on these. Kurihara provides a few nice guitar solos in places, but for the most part this is totally synth-based stuff - quite pleasant in its sound, but with no energetic message on the one hand and with a distinct lack of mood and pace shifts on the other. UT06, coming as a bonus track, has a poor recording quality and is the most formulaic and uninspired in general, despite the presence of some female vocalizations. Well, makeweight is makeweight - if only not to ask 'yourself' a question: for what? Nusa Dua and Soft Nothing are composed to an analogous scheme, but reveal more diversity in the matter of their arrangements. Nusa Dua stands out for its refined semi-improvised acoustic guitar solo, the Jazz-Fusion influence being evident in some electric guitar parts as well. The most interesting among the ballad-like pieces, Soft Nothing, has a unique, somewhat exotic sound. Its texture acquires its originality because of its ambient Japanese aroma. The music is basically still very simple, but its imitations of Koto as well as some elegant string arrangements diversify it, making it at the very least sonically beautiful. The remaining five tunes, Twelfth Tree, Crimson Carpet, Kesaran Patharan, Sonatine-3 and Flying Seed, each (finally!) display Luna's willingness to give her partner enough liberty to show his quite solid possibilities as a jazz guitar player. Therefore, all these more or less well suit the album's description as presented in its press kit, which claims "the music is in the style of Lee Ritenour or Pat Metheny". Sonatine-3, Flying Seed and Crimson Carpet are really good Jazz-Fusion works and are the most progressive tracks on the CD. Each is relatively intense throughout, revealing many effective tempo and theme changes, although the 'rhythm section' is 'played' with a certain looseness, as usual. Sonatine-3 and Flying Seed find Kurihara working wonders with his guitar, making his instrument produce plenty of different shades of emotion. Another exotic-sounding piece, Crimson Carpet, begins with a guitar solo in the manner of Pat Metheny. Then some interesting chord progressions and original melodic themes lead the listener away in another direction, the music acquiring vivid oriental colorings. Overall, Twelfth Tree and Kesaran Patharan steer in the same direction, but their development is easily predictable, the latter piece taking a slower pace than the other. These two are closer to the solo creations of Lyle May (a keyboardist for the Pat Metheny Group), particularly those featuring still the same Mr. Metheny on guitar. To my way of thinking, both should be defined as 'simply Fusion' rather than, well, you know what.
Conclusion. If I were a not-too-demanding fan of Ambient/Fusion, I would have probably enjoyed most of "Efflorescence", but being born to get sharp ears:-), I don't see any really positive reason that would explain LU7's decision to make this recording available to the progressive audience. Compared to the excellent "L'Esprit de L'Exil", this CD appears to be somewhat compromising regarding the reputation the duo have gained since their first release. Hopefully, they will be back on the right track henceforward.
VM: December 5, 2006
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