Lantana features three talented koto players, with Shoko Hikage probably the best known among them. Their first CD Tanka contains seven works. Two of them are free improvisations. Hikage contributed three pieces, the other two members one each, but Hikage's provide the strongest moments. Her writing combines traditional sonorities (can a koto not sound traditional to Occidental ears?) with contemporary approaches. "Tanka," the central piece, is based on a Japanese poetic form using syllables grouped as 5-7-5-7-7, and distributed here in a kaleidoscopic way among the players. "Ohri 1" and "Ohri 2" gracefully combine compositional and improvisational sections. The second part contains the most memorable melodies on this disc. Ryuko Mizutani's "F#" and Noriko Tsuboi's "Breathe" are harsher exercises, more minimalist, event-based, and lacking the flow found in the other pieces, but the musicianship makes up for their difficult character. Fans of contemporary koto music will find Tanka more than worthwhile. It can also provide an ear-opening experience for creative music fans at large, but this is not for the casual mainstream worldbeat crowd.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture