Baroque in the Future
Baroque in the Future
Made in Japan Records (1st Ed.); Musea (2nd Edition)
September 1988; July 1998
Buy Used Copy
This album can be considered Motoi Sakuraba’s first ‘solo’ work. While this album was the only one released for short-lived Japanese band Deja Vu, all of the compositions rested solo on the shoulders of keyboardist Sakuraba himself. How does this mix of instrumental and vocal themes come together in this progressive rock album? Let’s take a look, shall we?
To call Baroque in the Future one of Sakuraba’s strongest works would definitely be misleading. For something this early in his career, it is a fun representation of a lot of his future ideas, in particular Gikyokuonsou and his progressive rock works in the Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile series. The opening piece on the album is entitled “Prelude”. Essentially, this piece sets off the idea of a Baroque album set in the future. Piano work, synthesizer, and synth chorals all come together to form a beautiful opening for the album. Quirky at times, but all together pleasing, “Prelude” is one of the stronger pieces on the album.
We’ll get what I consider the weaker section of the album, the vocal performances, out of the way next. While all the compositions are fairly strong, the vocalists for Deja Vu, Tetsuya Nagatsuma and Genta Kudoh, are probably the weakest aspect of the band. Their performances aren’t extremely bad, but they seem to detract from the instrumental section of the songs. Out of all the performances, “Next World” is probably the strongest in terms of vocals. The lead vocalist’s voice, despite sounding flat at times, seems to match the instrumentals in this one. The instrumental base can be described as something a fast paced mix of classical elements, the 80’s sound, and futuristic elements. It comes together quite nicely. On the other hand, “Daydream” is probably the weakest performance of the studio recordings vocally. Fortunately, the instrumental section does help to curtail the disappointing performance. Taking a slower pace overall, “Daydream” is heavy on the percussion and keyboard. The composition isn’t as strong as “Next World,” but it does manage to impress with its long instrumental sections.
The aptly named “Deja Vu” appears twice on this album, once as a studio recorded version and once as a live version. Out of all the vocal performances, I feel that this has the strongest compositional basis. The vocals seem to fit extremely well with the instrumentation, which tends to take a very surreal approach in execution. You’ll hear lots of chords held for an extended amount of time and the idea of a futuristic soundscape is probably the strongest here. The live version is essentially the same, but it sounds rawer. There is another live version of a song on here, “Concentration,” however this one fails to make the album in a recorded version. Perhaps it’s for the best. The vocalist here, Tomoki Ueno, seems to miss on all marks. The composition focuses more on rhythm rather than melody. It’s not bad, but at the same time, it’s far from one of the more enjoyable pieces. It does feature some of Sakuraba’s signature keyboard work, something that is missing in a lot of the vocal performances on the album.
Moving on to my favorite sections, the remaining instrumentals really make up for some of the less than stellar vocal performances. “Flash!” features Sakuraba in all his keyboard glory. Extremely fast paced, disjointed in sound in sections, slower sections that rely heavily on the purity of the melody, “Flash!” is one of the Sakuraba’s earliest works that are largely embodied in Gikyokuonsou. “Byzantium” is, still to this day, one of my favorite Sakuraba works. It also impressed Sakuraba so much, that he used an arrangement of this work on his first official solo album, Gikyokuonsou. Relying on a mellower soundscape, “Byzantium” offers a look into the softer side of Sakuraba. Sure, there are the faster sections, but the true beauty in this piece lies within the subtler side of the composition.
“Baroque in the Future,” the namesake of the album, is by far one of the most creative compositions that Sakuraba has ever done. Neither flashy nor stale, this work seems to find the correct balance of all things Sakuraba. This is the definitive example of what Deja Vu was trying to accomplish when they named their album Baroque in the Future. Futuristic soundscapes open up the piece, leading into the most dominant feature of this composition, the organ line. Using the organ in a prog-rock fashion was perhaps one of the wisest choices on the album. Combine that with some stellar percussion, some intense build ups, and you have something that would work fantastically in one of Sakuraba’s Star Ocean compositions. The futuristic fanfare near the end, coupled with some synth choral work, used to bridge the main organ motif is a fantastic way to add a bit of extra depth to the composition.
Baroque in the Future is one of those rare gems that are found only on occasion. While the vocal performances are far from perfect, the instrumental basis of the album is where the musicality is really portrayed. Sakuraba, before his time in the video game era, shows that he means business when it comes to progressive rock works. While it doesn’t feature some of his more evolved and incredible performances, it does showcase that everyone starts somewhere. Definitely worth a listen should you be able to find it. Otherwise, you might just have to join the forum and ask me for a rip of it, since you probably won’t find it anywhere else.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on January 22, 2016.