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CD REVIEW

Harp on Mouth Sextet “Kasane no Neiro”

by Shawn Despres

Hailing from Kyoto, Harp on Mouth Sextet create their own contemporary groove-oriented version of gagaku, a centuries-old form of Japanese court music. Among the stronger performers on the up-and-comer stage at last year’s Fuji Rock Festival, their matching attire, which includes traditional bamboo hats fitted with veils to mask their identities, made them one of the most visually exciting as well.

With their third album, “Kasane no Neiro,” Harp on Mouth Sextet are at their best on the rollicking rump shaker “Acoustic Black Hole.” A powerful, densely woven piece of dance music, the track utilizes the full talents of the eight-member ensemble. Laptop and Tenori-On artist Rubyorla and percussionist Arthand craft an explosive bed of cheery, beat-driven electronica. The sounds mesh brilliantly with the hypnotic blues notes turned out by the act’s six female harmonica players.

Although not as intense, the rest of “Kasane no Neiro” is still a very good listen. The opening of “Re-new Fantasy Orchestration” comes close to mirroring Ennio Morricone’s iconic “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” theme before forging its own harmonica- accented ambient path. The ladies’ contributions may be more subtle on the lengthy “Aurora in the Sky,” but they still add some interesting twists to the dynamic techno cut.

Harp on Mouth Sextet will perform Aug. 7 at Fever in Tokyo.