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Astral Travelling Unity, "Studio and Live"

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The good ship Archive has reissued another great Japanese underground release, this time an album by Astral Travelling Unity. As the title suggests it is half live, half studio; one long track from each. The quality of both pieces is high but a little samey. I am intrigued, however, and keep coming back for more.

 

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“Studio Session” features echoing wind instruments and synthesisers that build up some interlocking drones and set me ill at ease for the entire 40 minute piece. It always sounds like it is going to break into a motorik style rhythm and the first couple of times I listened to it I was disappointed that it does not break into something more immediately satisfying. However, once I knew not to expect the expected and instead concentrated on what was actually on the CD, it became highly absorbing for me.

As the piece progresses, it does get more and more active. Splashes of guitar disrupt the flow of the atmospheric drones. The synths begin to sound haunted and the mellow vibes that are so strong in the first half of the piece begin to dissipate. The electric sitar and violin add an uneasy franticness to the piece. On one hand it feels like the musicians making the drones are trying to pull the piece towards something slow and meditative while the others are trying to let all hell break loose. A couple of times it does get a bit chaotic but before long the group settle back into a quiet but tense hypnotic drone. The piece finishes with the group intensifying their playing to create a flood of sound that feels incredible after over half an hour of holding back.

On the live side of things, the band is joined by Acid Mother Temple’s Makoto Kawabata. Musically "Live Session" is cut from a similar cloth to the studio work (and oddly it sounds better recorded too). This time the drones are supplemented with periodic moaning vocals bringing the piece down from the spacey atmosphere of "Studio Session" to something more earthly, like a descent to hell. Also, unlike the studio piece there was no problem getting into "Live Session," instead it instantly engulfed me. Stabs of guitar cut through the sustained drones adding a thick layer of menace to the piece.

Out of the two pieces, "Live Session" definitely comes out on top. I find myself skipping the studio piece the odd time, it is not that it is in any way inferior but I found the live material far more engaging. I do not know if I could be bothered with other releases by Astral Travelling Unity as they seem like they are a bit of a one trick pony but Studio and Live at least is a nice addition to my ever growing weird Japanese music pile.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 December 2006 03:41  


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