December 15, 1995
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Zuki-In is the follow-up to the stellar Troubadour production Kaki-In. The album exhibits a relatively serious mood, perhaps because it was written in the winter rather than the summer. There are orchestral overtures and meditative jazz pieces instead of the hyperactive pop and rock music that dominated the predecessor. Fortunately, Shinji Hosoe and Takayuki Aihara secured a solid line-up to maintain much of the same quality. Let’s look closer at one of the last big collaborative albums of the Troubadour line.
Zuki-In instantly demonstrates its creativity by offering the orchestration “Overture ‘Manikyua-Dan'” based on an originally playful composition by Shinji Hosoe. Takayuki Aihara handles the orchestration and once again demonstrates his ability to elegantly transition between frivolous and grandiose sections. Future Sega star Taihei Sato also incorporates increasing orchestral elements to the initially synth-based “Thru Heart”. The result is very elegant and there are a number of breathtaking twists during the five minute playtime.
There are a number of strong jazz tracks on this album too. Yasuhisa Watanabe proves to be a dynamic and mesmerising artist once more with “Nervous Delivery”. Yuri Misumi creates imagery of cruising through the night on the appropriately titled “Midnight Special”; there is a very effective blend of jazzy trumpets, saxophone, and electric piano that, unlike most other processed smooth jazz themes out there, sounds mature rather than superficial, sensual rather than deceptive. Hosoe’s “10000 forks jp.mix” has a similar mood, but adopts a greater electronic focus overall and is more about fleeting breathtaking moments rather than an overall pretty soundscape. Jouji Iijima’s “Iron String” is one of the few hard tracks on the album, but is especially enjoyable with its heavy bass riffs and flashy electric guitar solos.
There are also a few more ‘out there’ tracks on the album. Hiroto Sasaki’s “I’m Sleepin'” sounds peculiar with its combination of distorted electronic samples and playful piano lines, though is strangely appealing too. “Boots” brings voice samples from well-known libraries to the forefront, but fortunately they’re used in a sufficiently eccentric way to maintain sanodg’s individuality. Aihara doesn’t hesitate to incorporate voice samples and other samples from libraries on “The Secret Garden” either. The strong beat running throughout allows quite a few samples to be elegantly incorporated, but some of the transitions sound too random; this is more of an example of Aihara engaging in a superficial experiment with new equipment than creating anything cutting edge.
Unfortunately, the quality of the album is let down further by jarring vocal tracks. “Jum P-GIRL” is a nasty combination of high-pitched out-of-tune female vocals with repetitive bass riffs; whereas “Theme of Manikyua-Dan” on Kaki-In was a select taste, the majority of this song is simply bad. Keiichi Okabe’s “Drive” is a half-decent funk composition, but the vocals by Yuichi Yoshi couldn’t be more grating. It seems Troubadour has a release talent for selecting out-of-tune, out-of-place, and dreary vocalists and this is probably the very worst example.
Whereas Kaki-In was an expansive all-round achievement, Zuki-In is more of a moments album. There isn’t really a common theme to tie the divergent styles together and there is a little less consistency due to the dodgy vocal closers. That said, the quality is mostly good with some particularly exceptional orchestral, jazz, and electronic themes. Though this album isn’t a must-have, it’s still a pleasing addition to the Troubadour line that mostly showcases the talents of the usual suspects.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.