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Riko Goto Trio - Unbalance [Karkia Mistika /Nekorekords ı - 2013]

Pianist Riko Goto and his trio play gentle, nostalgic and patient lounge jazz.  Delicately glass-like, fragile piano-tones are the most prominent element, backed by tastefully brushed drums and stand-up bass. 

"Unbalance" is the 2nd of 3 albums the trio has recorded.  Fans of Ryuichi Sakamoto will instantly love this disk, and personally I think this music has more direction, as it feels less tonally groundless, yet has the same feeling of emerging from thin air.

These are the sort of sounds I heard playing at holiday family gatherings as a child.  I was the type to sit by the speaker.  There's a good healthy pause between each phrase and idea, and the album seems to slow the air around it.  It's a cozy, 'locked indoors on a rainy day' sort of recording.

It has a soothing, yet very grounded and lucid emotional tone.  As soon as this album began to play, my thoughts came down from whatever hedonistic flights of fancy I'd been occupying myself with to the more vital matter of when I could next see my 3 year old daughter.  I find it interesting that music can possess the power of moral imperative, to draw one's thoughts back to what truly matters.  Quite 'balanced' indeed, for an album called "Unbalance".

The production is luminous and highlights both the earthy/organic qualities of the instruments and their melodicism.  Tapani Varis' string bass work is some of the most melodic I've heard, coaxing surprising singing vibratos out of the typically rattling, percussive 'slap' the instrument often produces.

As the album progresses, it becomes clear these musicians are unafraid to meander into odd dissonant scalar climes and unstructured non-destinations that classic theory oriented players like Bill Evans would not dare.  However, they avoid any abrasive texture, and have a clever way of bringing it back to the pleasantly familiar at just the right moment, as with the mystifying arpeggiated chord progression that closes "L'Aube".

Other deviations from the lounge atmosphere include the bowed animal grunting of the string bass at the beginning of "Ballad from Yesterday", curiously contrasted with the return of reassuring and warm major tones from the piano a few seconds later.  Emotive bleats from the strings go on to wind in and out of the piano melody for rest of the 9 minute piece.  It's this kind of tasteful experimentalism that make this album a successful crossover between the realms of freeform jazz and relaxing lounge ambience.

This is both a very relaxing and curiously experimental album that should provide plenty of brainfood to any listener of jazz open to more loosely structured music, and the free association of ideas that it allows.  Its patient and deliberate energy make it a great listen for winding down at the end of the day.  Highly recommend for those open to a quiet / slow recording.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Josh Landry
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