Cherry Red Records [Release date: 25.09.15]
There are times aren’t there when all the planets align to produce something a bit special – er, no pun intended…
Essentially the band of keyboard virtuoso Yuka Funakoshi, Yuka & Chronoship have been in the vanguard of Japanese progressive rock since the release of their first album ‘Water Reincarnation’ in 2011.
I reviewed their sophomore effort ‘Dino Rocket Oxygen’ in 2014 which fully deserved the five stars garnered so I was particularly keen to give this latest outing a whirl.
‘The 3rd Planetary Chronicles’ is, as are so many these days, a crowd-funded album which, to me, always suggests that what’s on offer is well worth listening to – after all, people are paying up-front for a product they want rather than what Simon Cowell or Warner Bros. has told them they want.
And this is well worth listening to.
With a cover by renowned Manga artist Hideji Oda and a logo by none other than Roger Dean (how could they fail?), ‘The 3rd Planetary Chronicles’ is, in essence, the history of planet Earth in twelve tracks.
Almost entirely instrumental – with just two tracks having short snippets of vocals – the band take on this concept from the opening piano figure of ‘Birth Of The Earth’ through the Stone Age, Gallileo and Copernicus to the Industrial Revolution, the birth of manned flight and Albert Einstein.
Obviously, with the lack of lyrics, the listener is forced to use their imagination, but such is the power of the songwriting and such is the skill of the musicianship the investment of a little imagination is far exceeded by the rewards the music delivers.
With keyboards frequently to the fore (as you would expect), the album fair rattles along dishing out highlights at every turn.
Far too many to mention them all, but the keyboard and guitar tour-de-force that is ‘E=c#m’ cannot be ignored, nor album closer ‘Birth Of The Earth – Embryonic Planet’ that reprises the pastoral piano figure from the opening track and develops into a major progressive rock masterpiece meshing Yuka’s wonderful keyboard flourishes with exceptional fretwork from Takashi Miyazawa.
It’s not without its occasional ‘hmm’ moments – especially the vocalising on ‘Stone Age’ which sounds a bit ‘Pearl & Dean’ – but this really is nit-picking in what is both a masterful piece of work and an exempli gratia for how instrumental progressive rock should be written and played.
Review by Alan Jones
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