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Jun 30

[review] Yoshida Brothers: Prism

prismIt’s easy to understand why the Yoshida Brothers (Yoshida Kyoudai in Japan) are internationally popular. They’re shamisen virtuosos imaginative enough to take on all kinds of music with their nostalgic-sounding folk instrument, even a Radiohead song. Thus, Yoshida Kenichi and Ryouichirou can appeal to several demographics: shamisen lovers, fans of daring music and newbies to traditional Japanese music looking for a My First Shamisen to ease them in. Their ninth album and another fine addition to their repertoire, Prism, is on sale in the U.S., in case you fit any of the above categories and don’t want to pay for imports while the yen-dollar conversion rate is so ridiculous. (Where’s the bailout for J-music fans?)

Prism opens with the aforementioned Radiohead cover, “The National Anthem.” The Brothers’ chaotic rendition substitutes shamisen for the guitar riff and distorted female vocals for Thom Yorke’s mourn. It’s a headbobbing-worthy blend of rock and folk and Eastern and Western.

In the strikingly beautiful “One Long River,” the Yoshida Brothers weave their shamisen around ethereal, wordless female singing. “Red Bird” tilts the East-West balance toward the former, with a drum and violin unobtrusively backing the Brothers while they play the wistful-sounding Japanese melody.

Other tracks like “Michi” and “Hujin” deliver straight-up shamisen playing. They’re good songs and transition points for people easing into traditional folk. But even as a fan of the traditional shamisen music, I find them less interesting than the Yoshida Brothers’ idiosyncratic, creative blends of genres. The duo does better breaking new ground for the shamisen than honoring its origins.

1 comment

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  1. ray

    I love their music esp when they collaborate with Monkey Majik
    http://japansugoi.com/wordpress/yoshida-brothers-prism-new-release/

  1. jak poderwac

    jak poderwac…

    [...][review] Yoshida Brothers: Prism « purple SKY – A Japanese Music Collaborative (Jrock, Jpop and Visual Kei)[...]…

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