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CD REVIEW

Asakusa Jinta “Setsuna”

by Shawn Despres

“Setsuna” is the third album proper from Asakusa Jinta, the self-dubbed “Asianican Hard Marching Band.” Having performed under the moniker since 2004, the Tokyo sextet first refined their mix of modern Western-inspired sounds and vintage Japanese pop and enka at tiny local live houses and makeshift concerts on the roads of Tokyo’s Asakusa district.

In recent years they’ve gigged across Europe and have twice been a part of the annual Japan Nite U.S. tour showcasing the country’s promising up-and-comers.

Several cuts from “Setsuna” surfaced last spring on five limited-edition CD singles that quickly sold out. Paying homage to their busking roots, “Setsuna — Introduction” opens with a saxophone playing over street noises. Trumpet and tuba gradually enter before the music bursts into the well-crafted jazz and country hybrid of the title track. The fantastic, frenzied “Tokyo-Sabaku De Jidanda” comes next with the band’s brass section spinning the fast-paced song in several wildly entertaining directions — something they do continually throughout the record. Psychedelic and hard-rock riffs and a double bass solo cut through the horns on the great genre-hopping instrumental “Edoyo-Musou III.” A new take of “Crow’s Dance,” originally from their 2007 sophomore effort “Sky Zero,” ends things on a definite high note with an infectious batch of rockabilly rhythms that are difficult not to dance along to.

If Asakusa Jinta continue to craft tunes of this caliber, it’s likely they’ll soon find themselves a hot commodity among Japan’s open-minded alt-rock lovers.