Kitaro - Mandala (special)

SKU 11-Star 8078
Yes, nowadays it's easy to laugh at the image of the long flowing hair of the Japanese man sitting tranquilly cross-legged on the floor, but remember that Kitaro was a founding member of the Far East Family Band in the 70s and an important part of the 1970s Japanese space rock/progressive rock movement. And this 1994 release is definitely one of his very best releases, with passages that definitely recall some of the work of the FEFB; this is definitely closer to space rock than new age nirvana!

"Released in 1994, "Mandala" is one of the finest overall release from Japanese synthesist/composer/multi-instrumentalist Kitaro - and this is quite a compliment for an artist with such an impressive catalog! To give a bit of historical perspective; this album appeared a few years after the acclaimed release of Kitaro's majestic, orchestral concept work "Kojiki", a sentimental favorite of "new age music" fans, and certainly a hard act to follow! With "Mandala", Kitaro seemed to find inspiration by blending some new, exciting, and exotic sounds into his music (sitar, Native American flute, Oriental horns, etc.) while still holding on to those familiar synthesizer sounds that make him so distinctive as an artist. There is also more of an emphasis on electric guitars here, and Kitaro (who played most of the instuments himself) shows himself to be quite a gifted axe man. The album, as a whole, flows well from track to track, and there is a bit more musical diversity than is usally found on Kitaro's albums. The opening title track ("Mandala") begins with with a spacy, Pink Floyd-ish guitar/synth intro, then builds into a booming classical melody. There is also a bit of a Floyd-ian vibe on "Chant From the Heart", perhaps the closest that Kitaro has come to an out and out prog-rock tune (and stangely enough, for a song with "Chant" in its title, the actual vocal chanting is so submilinal that you may miss it enless you listen with a good set of headphones.) "Dance of Sarasvati" begins with a joyful vibe, then evolves into a more mysical groove with some strong middle eastern influences...then unepectedly evolves back to it's original theme! "Planet" is a short, gentle piece with classical overtones. "Crystal Tears" and "Scope" are both in the tradition of Kitaro's more atmpospheric compositions (the former featuring a great Tangerine Dream-inspired sequencer backdrop.) One of Kitaro's more unusual compositions, "Winds of Youth", begins in seeming chaos, then slowly evolves into into an tightly-structred piece fueled by some nice acoustic sounds (interestingly, the live version found on "An Enchanted Evening" bears little resemblance to the original recording found here.) But for me it is the album closer "Kokoro" that steals the show here. This is truly one of the most haunting melodies that Kitaro has ever crafted, and the intricate arrangement here (blending layers of wailing guitars, mellow synths, and orchestral percussion) simply swells with emotion! All in all, if you love Kitaro, new age music, or even some "world music" flavors, you can't go too far wrong with this one."-Jeffrey Mattheus

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