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CD REVIEW

Bahashishi “Kaleidoscope”

by Robert Michael Poole

“Putting the heart of the world into music” is the theme of Osaka-based quintet Bahashishi, who graduate to a major label with this, their second album. Taking their name from the Swahili for “heart,” the band, led by effervescent vocalist Yurari, have a clear J-pop-with-a-conscience mission, which results in highly-polished pleasantness that matches the compelling and potent vocal delivery of UA with the melodic craft of contemporaries Singer Songer.

But the album title is a misnomer for the most part. The first half of the album, led by singles “Oasis” and “Kiseki,” is radio-friendly niceness more suited to the original Greek meaning of the word as “beautiful form.” Piano-led and earnest tracks such as “id” suffer from a little too much gloss to truly strike home, making for a lightweight prelude.

The trip-hop that underlies “Time Machine” comes as a surprise at the midway point, as the band finally start having more fun, descending into grungy electronica. “Shiawasejima” follows, a light acoustic ode that would make the more renowned free-spirited chanteuse Hajime Chitose proud. Instrumental “441″ then changes tack again, pre-empting a final four tracks that vary from indulgent jazz-infused band workouts to the epic stadium-baiting finale, all of which redeems the safe approach from where it all began.

“Kaleidoscope,” then, is a tale of two halves. The attempt to shoehorn an eclectic talent into an accessible and surefire hit record for the first part provides the ear-candy to blanket konbini (convenience stores) across the nation without ever becoming tiresome; the second half is more notable for its eclecticism, rewarding fans who stuck around to hear the possibilities that still lie before the fast-improving Bahashishi.