Dragon Blue / Tenko

Hade's Park

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Dragon Blue is a quintet led by the vocalist Tenko and including several fine Japanese musicians including Otomo Yoshihide and bassist Kato Hideki. It's essentially a rock band, though one substantially off-kilter in the manner of Fred Frith (with whom Tenko had often worked). The rhythms tend toward the intentionally awkward and clunky, with color provided by guitarist Imahori Tsuneo and Otomo's turntable interjections, the latter providing the most interesting and experimental sounds on the disc; at one point he briefly throws on a recording of the great Korean hojok player Kim Suk Chul, whose work he sampled to great effect in his own Ground-Zero. Tenko's vocal style is rather declamatory and often strident, somewhat similar to Irene Aebi and, like Aebi, may be an acquired taste for many listeners. Only on the final, most successful piece, "Fragments Realm," does her voice take on a subdued character and meshes beautifully with the accompaniment. The compositions (uncredited, though presumably by Tenko) otherwise don't offer very much in the way of individuality or memorableness, and Hades Park leaves the listener with the sense of unfulfilled promise.

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