The Far East Side Band

Urban Archaeology

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Even for the avant-garde fan acquainted with the Far East Side Band's first CD, Caverns, Urban Archaeology cannot fail to surprise. The group's blend of Oriental and Occidental instruments and music forms provides quite a change of scenery. For this second opus, the trio of Asian-American improvisers Jason Hwang, Sang-Won Park, and Yukio Tsuji was augmented to a quartet. The arrival of New York tuba player Joe Daley gives the group's music a very different finish. His soft low tone often sketches alien-sounding (at least under these circumstances) melodies, while his electronics bring in a touch of (not always welcomed) artificiality. Violinist Hwang penned all four pieces, each about 15 minutes long and structured as a suite of bits of melodies and structured improvisations. Park's ajang and kayagum (two string instruments related to the koto) delicately answer Hwang's pizzicato violin playing, while Tsuji's beautiful shakuhachi (a flute) dialogues ethereally with the violin's bow, as exemplified on "Distance Between Memories: In a Landscape." Park uses a wide array of Asian percussion; it is he who often sets the colors of the various tableaux. The relations between the constituents of a piece are not always obvious and some changes feel forced (especially in "The Shadows' Play") -- the listener may often glance at his CD player, thinking the next track has begun. But if one looks beyond these unexpected act changes, Urban Archaeology provides a very different new music experience stemming from the musical vocabulary of the Asian-American culture. Recommended.

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