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There have been a number of attempts to fuse rock with other genres that are diametrically opposed, like trying to bridge metal with a classical orchestra, and the truth is that most of them are novelties only good for stocking stuffers. Therefore, it wouldn’t be unusual to be skeptical of Tokyo’s Rock of Asia blending rock with traditional Japanese folk elements. However, their new album TAMI is indeed a truly compelling affair that brings something fresh and alive to the genre, and it is at once challenging and accessible as the collective create a work of art that perfectly straddles both styles with ease.
The band holds nothing back on TAMI, which is clear right away from the passion in Nikki Matsumoto’s vocals. The use of traditional instruments like the koto, shamisen, sho, and erhu seem to blend effortlessly into the songs, although I’m sure in less adept hands the inclusion would be less effective. Whether they play harder, biting songs like “Capital In Your Vein” or more folky numbers like “Sunbright,” the group gives it their all and approaches everything with a burst of energy that is infectious. It’s hard to say who exactly is the target audience for TAMI, but the adventurous who seek out new experimentation will not be disappointed at all.
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