Rock of Asia Comes Hard on Asian Anthology Album
Rock of Asia takes a deliciously refreshing, if not outright novel, approach to songwriting on 2021’s Asian Anthology. Most of the songs are characterized by intense, perhaps even desultory progressions or movements that defy expectations, providing an intense listening experience.
In some instances they do so seemingly for pure fun’s sake, which is never a bad thing when producing music. “Mikoto”, for example, has obvious allusions to the 1939 classic “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with its vivid, high pitched chanting, ethnic percussion, and primal aura. This is a great tune for outdoor summer nights, reveling with nature, and feeling the spirit of the earth at play. Plus the pure vivacity of one of those stringed instruments (which could very well be Yasuhisa Murase’s acoustic guitar) is enough to wake the civilized and the uncivilized, while putting them under the same transient spell.
“Ocean” also demonstrates the quintet’s propensity for shifting melodies, tempos, and the key in which the songs are played with a dynamic fluidity that’s rarely found in most contemporary music. Murase lays down some exceptional acapella work before Nikki Matsumoto joins in on the vocals. The former is full of samples (for those seeking such things), providing a riveting intro for a tune that eventually erupts into a pastiche of drums, violin, and several instruments endemic to Asia.
The most riveting of these is likely a wind instrument that sounds suspiciously similar to a flute but with a slightly more breathy sound. It sets the tone for many of these tunes, playing the lead on cuts like “Lal Dhaga” which kicks off the album. Moreover, it’s almost always characterized by an evocative melody that seemingly floats over the rest of the instruments, the vocals, and anything else to appear front and center with a smokeless evanescence that’s transcending at times.
Such is the case on “BELIEF” when this instrument (which is likely played by Matsumoto) takes over the tune for a solo that’s remarkable in its passion and composition. It’s just these sort of spontaneous outbursts, shifts, and digressions that make this album worth investing the better part of an hour in, not just on initial listen but on subsequent ones, too.