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TRACK LIST: 1. Searching For The Moon 2:32 2. Dawn 4:13 3. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath 4:04 4. Muse 3:54 5. 101 5:34 6. Fall Winter 2:53 7. Riverwas 3:39 8. Mori (Forest Song) 4:05 9. Yuna 4:17 10. Kiri 5:08 11. Searching For The Moon (Reprise) 0:45 LINEUP: Sasha Markovic - guitars, mandolin Kana Kamitsubo - piano with: Ayumi Ueda - vocals
Prolusion. US venture YAGULL started out in 2012, originally as the creative vehicle of composer and musician Sasha Markovic, then later expanded to be a duo incorporating the talents of composer and musician Kana Kamitsubo. "Yuna" is the third album to be released under the Yagull name, and was released through the composers own label Zozemusic.
Analysis. Yagull isn't the kind of band that will be most written about on a progressive rock oriented website, and then especially when the artists have chosen to tone everything down to a strict acoustic guitar and piano ensemble this time around. As such, this isn't music that shares all that many reference points with progressive rock, other than drawing inspiration from similar fields of music: Classical, jazz and, at least to some extent, folk music. The make and break for an album of this kind is just how much the listener enjoys listening to the combination of acoustic guitar and piano, and then in particular how well one can hear the quality of the performers. The differences between a good, a mediocre and a great performer in this territory is something of a skill that needs to be learned, and personally I don't see myself as an expert in such matters. Be that as it may be, this is music that relies on subtle differences to make their mark: How hard a tangent is pushed, the pacing of the dominant notes, the spaces between the notes, how long certain notes should resonate. And probably a myriad of other details a layman like myself are oblivious too. I do feel pretty confident in establishing that both musicians here are quality performers however, for the simple fact that none of the compositions here felt superfluous or uninteresting. As I do not have a strong fascination for this kind of music in general, this to me is a sign of quality. That quite a few of the compositions gave me some distinct emotional associations calls for music the same conclusion, at least to my mind. This album is dominated by creations of a more careful and melancholic nature. Some more longing, some more sorrowful, some more haunting. The differences between them are subtle, but the emotional impact not as much so. Case in point is the title track 'Yuna', that to me at least played out as some kind of elegy, reaching a desperate conclusion and then fading out in a tired feeling of sorrow. The emotions brilliantly emphasized by the wordless vocals accompanying the instrumentalists on this sole occasion. If that was the intention of this composition is a good question of course - the liner notes indicates something slightly different - but for me that was the main impression. Some of the compositions have more of an uplifting nature to them, or at least spirited. '101' the most striking as far as the latter is concerned, while I find 'Riverwas' to be the most striking of the former, as well as being my favorite creation on this album as a whole. But for those who want to explore what this US twosome is all about, I would suggest that the song to line up first from this album is their cover of 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath'. There are cover versions and there are cover versions, and in this case Yagull transforms the song to becoming their own from the start and all the way to the finish. A good representation of what Yagull is all about musically, and a good cover to boot. Not as hypnotizing as the original in my view, but certainly markedly different on just about all levels apart from the core melody lines.
Conclusion. Yagull isn't a band that will find a strong following among progressive rock fans in general. But those with a certain taste for jazz and classical music that also tends to enjoy listening to a quality duo playing well developed material on piano and acoustic guitar should feel right at home with this album. And if you are curious, look up their cover of 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' as a good introduction to the band.
Progmessor: June 28th 2019
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