Inspired by a musical collective in post-war 1950's Japan, Tsutumo Ohashi began a similar group of musicians in the early 70s. Appealing to musical creators from all walks of life, he quickly formed Geinoh Yamashirogumi which brought many skills and drives together as hundreds of people gathered to produce some of the most other worldly and creative music known to humankind.
Perhaps most famous for the production of the Akira soundtrack, in which his team of classically trained virtuosos were demonstrating their prowess by reprogramming the mid 1980's digital synthesisers to handle the abstract tunings of gamelan and other mysterious scale forms such as those used for Noh, a spiritual Japanese music style.
Previously to recording the Akira soundtrack, Geinoh released their first Ecophony record, Ecophony Rinne (1986). This was a world first for digital and traditional music to fuse, the album gained the band much respect including from the all powerful film producers who commissioned the Akira soundtrack.
Ecophony Gaia, the second (and currently last) in the Ecophony series brings back the magic of the old and once again, shows us how to do it with the new kit. Of course, being released in 1990, the methods are perhaps old hat these days, however the truth remains that the clever people from Geinoh Yamashirogumi had achieved something amazing. When designed, these new keyboards and computerised musical devices were geared to perform under typical western conditions. So when other breeds of music wanted to utilise them, they had to get right into the basics and program the sounds from the bottom up. Now you know why your keyboard lets you alter waveforms at base level eh? It's in case you're a genius.
So how does this particular album sound? I chose it to demonstrate this group as it was the first one I heard. It opens up and immediately shows you that this is no ordinary album. The mix of angelic vocals and traditional instruments makes the music swell with nostalgia, magic and taste but the flurries of new wave anything (and I mean anything) create a wave like you'd expect on an ocean, and it coasts along with its particular edge before vanishing back into the sound-sphere, allowing new motions to take to the surface.
The persistence of Gamelan gives the ghostly edge as notes hide behind each other, chimes hang abstractly in the air and manic melodies play in an almost stunningly beautiful way and yet, the major scale is nowhere to be seen. As singing people make beautiful sounds in mirrored echoes of the haunting reverberations that twinkle like little lights through the bars of sound, the album simply turns us over and over again in a peaceful sleep of natural dreams.
It's truly quite remarkable, and yet, obvious. If only we could all make music like this. I am sure we imagine it all the time, in the hidden space behind our persisting thoughts. Who knows, the last major release was in 2000, and I think it's about time something else came out of the void. When we include so many human voices, minds and inspiration to produce one piece of work, no wonder it tinkles a bell deep inside me that says you are home.
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