ZAN - Kizuna

review - 26.02.2011 11:43

A fusion of traditional instruments and light pop verges into an indie and new age sound.

ZAN is an interesting mix of sound, playing a hybrid of light J-pop fused together with traditional Japanese instruments. The original members included Sunagawa Norikazu, a professional bamboo flute, or shakuhachi, player, Ichikawa Shin who played the koto, a 17-stringed instrument, and an additional shakuhachi player Kominato Akihisa. Most notably, the trio became a duo as the leader, Sunagawa, was involved in a fatal mountain climbing accident. The other two members continued to work on the then unfinished album Kizuna, which Sungawa had worked on throughout his life, and released it in his honor on January 24, 2007.

TAO~Michishurube~ opens the mini-album nicely with a soft, alluring whisper of the shakuhachi and the beautiful koto, a plucked stringed instrument that is quite long in length but produces intricate sounds. TAO~Michishurube~ modernizes quintessential traditional Japanese music by incorporating a modern use of bass and a smattering of modern 80’s inspired synth in the background. It binds together the old and the new and spits out something extravagant.

The second track, Spirit (unplugged ver.), takes the listener back in time. It is a purely traditional piece. Spirit (unplugged ver.) opens up an exploratory world, as if one has been transported to ancient Japan. Taking a more serious, minor tone, both the shakuhachi and koto weave a stern picture of distress. The melody of the shakuhachi details the journey of a person; the koto adds weight and seems to present conflicted thoughts or emotions to the song.

Still in a minor key, the mood in Tsuki no Hamon is contemplative, yet somber. The shakuhachi adds an eerie tone underneath the weight of the song and allows the listeners to relax, to stare at the wall, to do nothing at all but remain still. Tsuki no Hamon is the dreamy soundtrack that accompanies you as you watch the snow fall. Listeners can simply stare out beyond the glass window pane and slip into a daydream.

Within Kizuza and Kasumi are the first two instances the listener hears vocals. Both songs incorporate light J-pop with the traditional instruments heard in the previous tracks. It is a bit of a shock to hear the vocals so late in the mini-album, but nonetheless, it seems to suit the tracks. Through both Kizuza and Kasumi, the listener tastes something new and is brought back to the present.

The seven-track mini-album includes an additional DVD containing the PV for Kizuna, which was largely filmed in New York, and some footage titled -Kaze no gundari- by ZAN's late member Sunagawa Norikazu.
Overall, the mini-album shows the profound effort two people have gone to in order to preserve their previous member's work and still remember him. Kizuna is a real gem and should be appreciated more.
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