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Kitaro - Ten Kai (Astral Voyage/Astral Trip) CD (album) cover

TEN KAI (ASTRAL VOYAGE/ASTRAL TRIP)

Kitaro

 

Progressive Electronic

3.91 | 4 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars So you've got it all figured out that Japanese composer Kitaro is merely a soft New Age artist, eh? Wrong - his roots lie in Seventies prog-rock band Far East Family Band, and his first several years of solo albums starting with 1978's `Ten Kai' are mostly full-blown space-music discs, very much comparable in parts to Klaus Schulze, Vangelis and even moments of Eloy and Pink Floyd. But it all started with this superb and eclectic instrumental debut, loaded with deep-space electronic soundscapes with light Eastern flavours and drifting ambience, but it's also frequently experimental and maybe even a little trippy!

Opener `By the Sea Side' is an unhurried twinkling and bubbling electronic contemplation of drowsy panning synths over gentle rushing waves, and `Soul of the Sea' slowly grows to life with exotic percussion, relaxing acoustic strums and fanfare- like Eastern-flavoured trilling synth and Moog themes. Gurgling Moog, droning electronics and ringing sitar strains groan throughout the psychedelic `Micro Cosmos', a piece that would have been right at home on the Krautrock-lite early Deuter albums, the cool `Beat' lurches with slinking sequenced programming and trailing wisps over Klaus Schulze-like atmospheres, and first-side closer `Fire' eventually reveals Pink Floyd and Eloy-like powerful spacey lead synth themes dominating hazy guitar strums and pounding drums.

`Ten Kai's second side more-or-less forms a continuous extended suite, starting with `Mu's dreamy mandolin trickles over panning pulses, `Dawn of the Astral's contemplative and delicately spacey drifts that grow in stature around rumbling drums, `Endless Dreamy World's floating sustained ambience and `Kaiso's tranquil ringing acoustic guitar and joyful humming organ. The first half of sumptuous album closer `Astral Voyage' (sometimes listed as `Astral Trip', with some versions of this album itself alternatively called either of these two titles) is a low-key placid meander permeated with Eastern mystery, but as it slowly rises in the second half it once again lightly calls to mind German proggers Eloy, as well as a few of Jean-Michel Jarre's more serene `Oxygene' moments.

Although it goes a little further, `Ten Kai' is a sublime example of deeply immersive space-music full of wonder and coming from a place of love, not the isolating and suffocating darker works of the earlier Berlin School of progressive-electronic music, even if they proved to be an initial inspiration to the artist. It's accessible and melodic without being simplistic or remotely commercial, and Kitaro's exquisite musical skills and keen ear for tasteful, atmospheric compositions is completely evident throughout the entire album. Listeners only aware of his "New Age" status who connect with vintage prog-electronic sounds should definitely take a chance on discovering just how much Kitaro has to offer, and there's no better place to start than `Ten Kai'.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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