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Asa-Chang & Junray, "Tsu Gi Ne Pu"

The Leaf Label
This new mini-album by Asa-Chang & Junray doesn't point to a new direction for the group, but rather brilliantly confirms that the audaciously original musical experimentation heard on last year's Song Chang was far from a fluke. Percussionist Asa-Chang, tabla master U-Zhaan and programmer Hidehiko Urayama have produced another masterful album in the spirit of kidoairaku, loosely translated as "anything is possible." Kidoairaku is a peculiarly Japanese approach to composition, where disparate elements are put together in an exciting, dramatic way that is as vital and immediate as pop music. Tsu Gi Ne Pu contains five tracks that encompass some of the myriad of possiblities offered by this approach. The first track 'Toremoro" utilizes sampled sound effects from the original Star Trek series - the chirp of the transporter, the whoosh of the automatic doors, the birdsong of the communication devices. Soon, a lulling shakahuchi melody is joined by the ever-present tabla. Five minutes in, the trademark tabla singing begins, this time edited to hyperrhythmic precision by Urayama's laptop expertise. This song is an exciting auditory experience, best experienced on an expensive set of headphones. 'Tsuginepu to Ittemita' is made up of high-pitched electronic drones, with more of the phonetic, staccato singing from Yoshimi P-We of The Boredoms. 'Xylophone' is the rare instance of an Asa-Chang and Junray song that you can actually sing along to. For its three-minute running time, Asa-Chang and Junray manage to reign in all of their random, abstract tendencies to produce an supremely catchy pop song. 'Kaikyo' matches a plaintive trumpet melody with field recordings of the ocean, and builds to a shattering climax reminiscent of Ennio Morricone on several tabs of Japanese acid. The disc closes with the short 'Kutsu No. 3', a slight piece featuring a sad trumpet, hypnotic harmonium and a playful chorus of digital blips and birdcalls. Fast forward ten minutes to an eight-minute hidden track with Yoshimi and Asa-Chang counting in Japanese against a background of shrill digital arpeggios. Tsu Gi Ne Pu is a worthy follow up to Song Chang, and it makes me wish that there were more artists on the scene today that made high-concept experimentation this exciting and listenable.

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