erasing clouds

Asa Chang & Junray, Jun Ray Song Chang (Leaf)

reviewed by anna battista

What is a haiku? A haiku is one of the most important forms of traditional Japanese poetry, a 17-syllable wee poem consisting of three metrical units of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. Haiku-poems can describe anything and they always contain a kigo, a season word, which indicates in which season the Haiku is set. What would happen if somebody would try to create musical haikus? You can stop wondering 'cos we've found the answer in Asa Chang & Junray's album Jun Ray Song Chang.

Ex-leader of Japanese cult band Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, Asa Chang has joined forces with tabla master U-Zhaan, programmer Hidehiko Urayama and mixmaster Kiyoshi Kusaka to donate you the 11 tracks contained in "Jung Ray Song Chang". The album is an epical haiku, unpredictable, hypnotic and exotic with tracks that sound set in different seasons thanks to winter-y oppressing oboes, samples of pit patting autumnal rain, spring-like fluid flutes and summer-ish harmonies. The first track, "Hana" begins with an almost lounge intro, then turns into a heart-ripping melody on which fractured voices mumbling in Japanese can be heard, while bongos and tablas build layer by layer a dramatic soundscape; "Preach" is a mess of trumpets and crazy voices and sounds like a dirge a la Goran Bregovic played on a broken record player while "Goo-Gung-Gung" sounds like the music from a Japanese video game on speed. Honourable mention goes to the trans-electro-d'n'b of "Kokoni Sachiari".

Some of the best haiku-poems describe daily situations in a special way so that the reader will have a brand new experience of a well-known situation. And that's what Asa Chang is doing, giving the listener a new experimental perspective on music with harmonica, tablas, altohorns, patterns of traditional Japanese music, samples of unintelligible voices that often sound like a horde of Star Wars Ewoks quarrelling and sinuous "One Thousand And One Night"-like melodies mixed with tarantellas. If you think Japan has only given us comics, cartoons, fancy designers and the Hello Kitty craze, you're wrong. It has also given us Asa Chang and his mad experimentalism. Bless him.

Asa chang site:
Leaf Label site:

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