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Show-YenShow-Yen hails from Japan (Show-Yen translates as ‘medieval manor’) and consists of Yasuhiro Nisho (guitars), Hiroaki Fujii (bass) and Tonomura Masanobu (drums).  Originally formed in 1998, the band has performed at clubs all over Japan but has only now released this, their first album on the Musea label.  And if you think you recognise the name Hiroaki Fujii, then you probably do because Hiroaki is also the bass player for Quaser!

This is an instrumental album revolving around the “free concept” idea, allowing the listener to conjure up his or her own mental picture of what the music represents.  Thus the album is untitled.

Labelling the music is not easy; hard progressive, prog metal, rock, are some of the descriptions that could be used but there is a lot more to Show-Yen than that.  I would personally call it free progressive as composer Yasuhiro Nishio’s music is anything but restricted to a single style. 

As if to prove the point, the album opens with a delightful intro acoustic piece before crashing into the first track proper, Reallusion, which is a pumping Crimsonesque ‘Thrak’ era affair that would have Mr Fripp reaching for his guitar to join in.  Tremendous stuff.  Towards the end of this track the music takes on a bluesy feel whilst maintaining the same exceedingly catchy ‘riff’. 

As if to provide contrast, the next track Parade is more of an upbeat mix of neo-prog and classic prog with, perhaps a hint of Camel.  Lucifer’s Child follows with a altogether darker and middle-eastern edge with occasional guitar breaks, Satrianni style, and, now I know you’ll find it hard to believe, some John Williams’ Sky style intricate acoustic finger work.

Network Broken is hard rock with some rather nimble bass playing.  Ominous Footsteps is vaguely reminiscent of Hackett’s The Steppes (well, it is if you have an obtuse mind like mine).  Ran picks up the pace and mixes prog, prog metal and rock to great effect.  The next five tracks are all named Asels (1 to5), which transcend from gentle acoustic to hard prog with a touch of fusion, to intricate and gentle prog ala Sky and Camel and a bluesy-ness akin to Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac or even Santana.  Move Up revisits Satrianni style upbeat hard rock with intricate breaks.  Time and Space is a fast melodic piece that would probably make a good theme tune to such sci fi as Star Trek or Lost In Space.  The album finishes with Fu-Ga, prog with a Latin flavour.  Maybe a piece with a harder edge would have been better to finish off with but the result is you just have to play the CD again.

To sum up, this is an excellent instrumental album with musicianship to match, belying the fact that the band is just a trio.  The music is diverse to a point yet the album remains coherent with plenty of themes and riffs to get the adrenalin flowing.  With any luck, Show-Yen will get the opportunity to perform outside of Japan in the not-too-distant future. 

Jem Jedrzejewski



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