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Hiromitsu Agatsuma is a truly gifted player of the shamisen, the traditional three-string Japanese instrument. However, he's taken it in a very new direction, putting his fingerwork on top of programmed tracks that run the gamut from ambient to almost-pounding techno. While Agatsuma has a deep grounding in traditional Japanese music, here he gives himself plenty of freedom. But he's not just about flying fingers, although they get a heavy workout on "Beams." Equally important is mood, and he can establish that wonderfully on his instrument, as he proves on the slow-moving "Solitude" and "Curfew." There's nothing to fault in his playing, which is never less than stellar. The problem lies in the programming, which serves solely as a backdrop. There's no character to it, just a blandness which ends up detracting from the overall worth of the music. To be fair, this album is an experiment, and overall it's a successful one. But one can't help feeling that with better backing this could have been remarkable.

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