Outside our hemisphere, the culture most enamored of the Western aesthetic has been Japan, which has embraced a staggeringly wide variety of Amero-Euro art efforts. Thus, it's been no surprise that an array of the results of that absorption should manifest in similar creativity from the land of the rising sun. This has yielded cool mellow Santana-esque jazz fusion a la Takanaka, such really bad arena metal as Loudness and Vow Wow, first great prog and then mediocre disco from Osamu Kitajima, the killer Stomu Yamash'ta LPs (Red Buddha, the Go band, East Wind, etc.), and the like. One of the most successful names has been Ryuichi Sakamoto's (solo, YMO, and so on), and the efforts of cats like Yukihiro Takahashi and Masabumi Kikuchi have had their moments. Well, now Petra Haden, daughter of famed jazz bassist Charlie, has joined with Yuka Honda, Yuko Araki, and Hirotaka Shimizu to form If By Yes, and the result is like a high class cross between Sadistic Mika Band, the fallout of Sade, and progressive pop.
Coming, as it does, from the experimental Chimera label, one would've expected a much different manifestation, perhaps a collision of the minimalist side of Toru Takemitsu, a roving band of Tuva throat-singing yeti, and chaotic fractal progressive jazz a la the old Black Saints label, but no, what we get is extremely smooth chart music with inclusions of modern electronica framing subtle flavors and soothing assonance. Imagino is a great example. Flowing, satiny, dreamy, it captures a well-realized cloud of slowly upwelling currents in a ukiyo-e landscape of lotus blossoms and rain-soaked urban byways. 'Prog-pop' would indeed not be an inapt designation for the entire CD, and I can envision If By Yes on a particularly hip radio station spinning Art in America, FM, Kayak, The Buggles, and fellow-traveling futuristic composers. Too bad such a dial position doesn't exist.
Haden is a violinist but has dropped that here in favor of a purely vocal presence, a very good singer, delicate with a glidingly sweet tone. David Byrne (Talking Heads) guests on Eliza, Nels Cline contributed some guitar, and Keigo "Cornelius" Oyamada mixed two of the cuts. All members are young, well-honed, and have appeared in many major acts, either as members or sessioneers, so every aspect of Salt is professional and knowing, accomplished well beyond their years. One gets the feeling that the band may well be a part of the next wave of the light side of Berlin/Missing Persons music heavily seasoned with Goldfrappe and post-The Wave sensibilities.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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