Yoshida Brothers

Yoshida Brothers

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Yes, the Yoshida Brothers are sensations in Japan, and yes, they can play those shamisens just like ringing a bell. The question isn't their ability; it's what they do with it. On the unadorned "Hyakka Ryouran" they play together beautifully, letting the tones of the instrument shine with some duet playing that seems telepathic. Once backing comes in, they run the gamut from new age to adult contemporary to smooth jazz. Not that the playing isn't superb; it is, and it has to be said that the music is geared to find the widest possible audience. That's fine, and possibly even understandable, but the instrument sounds much better on something like "Tsugaru Jyongara Bushi," where the brothers really show what they can do -- much of the other material never really stretches them, but this is an exercise in shamisen virtuosity, and much more satisfying. And the producers seem to acknowledge that, by not crowding the whole disc with backing -- "Labyrinth" works just as well with duo shamisens and nothing more. "Moyuru" adds a flute and drum for something rootsy that pushes the Yoshidas and their flying fingers. While backing might give a contemporary sheen to the sound, it's just fine on its own. It might make them more popular, but even a remix is unnecessary.

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