Fusing ancient Japanese instruments like the koto and the shakuhachi flute with western acoustic instruments and synthesizers, Uttara-kuru forged a sound that was firmly planted in the 20th century yet echoed a deeper, more primal purity. Their name came from the Japanese Buddhist version of Shangri-La, a place where peace reigned and cultures converged -- an appropriate moniker for a group that sought to create a similar peaceful convergence in music. Their debut album, Prayer, consisted almost entirely of sutras -- Buddhist chants, some of which were over 1000 years old -- that were chanted by monks and filled out by synth-dance beats conjured up on various instruments. The duo, renowned producer Kazumasa Yoshioka and Seiichi Kyoda (considered one of the finest arrangers in Japan) issued that album and the next one, East Wind, on Pacific Moon, the label that employed Yoshioka as producer for all of its albums. East Wind, released in 1999, branched out from the specificity of their former project to provide a wider range of sound textures, still keeping the cross-cultural focus that was featured on Prayer.
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