© 2004 Lawrence Tuczynski

Title: RITUAL MUSIC OF ODO ISLAND
Japanese Title: GOUKAI Na ODOSHIMA
CD Label: BKM
CD Number: G.R.F.014
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Music Performed by: Takeo Yahiro & Friends
Number of tracks: 9
Running time: 73:42
Number of discs: 1 (+ bonus CD-ROM)
Year of release/manufacture: August 13, 2004

REVIEW

November 17, 2004 (Courtesy of Sam Scali)

Those zany (and mysterious) Bukimisha guys have done it again. This CD is the latest in an ongoing series of unique "a cappella" recordings of the music of Akira Ifukube, presented in the inimitable vocal style of the Japanese collective known as The Bukimisha Weird Secret Society. Unlike previous entries, which have consisted entirely of film music interpretations, this installment focuses (for the most part) on faithful vocal renderings of some of Ifukube's most popular orchestral works.

The first track briefly revisits cinematic territory with "Ritual Music of Odo Island", a well-known theme from 1954's GODZILLA. The original film arrangement consisted of little more than an exotic flute-like instrument and sparse percusssion, but Bukimisha's vocal version is surprisingly warm and more dense, with rich, overlapping harmonies and percussive vocal sounds. The track is very short (barely over a minute), but it sets an appropriately exotic tone for what is to follow.

Tracks 2-5 feature Ifukube's majestic JAPANESE SUITE - originally composed for piano in 1933, and rearranged for orchestra in 1991. Bukimisha tackles the composition in its full, four-movement glory, and the results are nothing short of incredible. As on past Bukimisha CDs, Takeo Yahiro and his cohorts deconstruct the original instrumental arrangement and reassemble it as a dynamic vocal showcase. The first movement is especially impressive, with its steady, military marching beat (consisting mostly of "la la's" and "doh doh's") that slowly builds to an almost violent vocal crescendo. The other movements are equally faithful to the beauty and spirit of Ifukube's composition - which is even more impressive when one considers the intricacies of the maestro's orchestral work compared to the relative simplicity of his film themes.

Tracks 6 and 7 are devoted to JAPANESE RHAPSODY (1935), another of Ifukube's early works. As with the original instrumental version, the melodic interplay in the first movement is delicate and complex (with an especially rich tapestry of layered vocals), and the work as a whole exhibits an exotic, ethnic flavor. In fact, the frenetic second movement of RHAPSODY features an uptempo version of music that, nearly 20 years later, formed the basis of GODZILLA's "Odo Island Ritual" theme. Here again, Bukimisha skillfully carries the piece to its stirring conclusion.

Track 8 winds things up (almost) with a perennial crowd pleaser - the first movement of SYMPHONIC FANTASIA, Ifukube's popular suite of Godzilla/sci-fi film music. While most of these themes have been performed by the Bukimisha group in the past, this new interpretation appropriately echoes the more somber, reverent tone of the 1983 orchestral arrangement (Bukimisha shows their serious side - who knew?).

Then there's the "bonus" track. Track 9 is not listed on the CD sleeve - it's a much longer version (more than 24 minutes!) of the "Ritual Music of Odo Island", punctuated by a brief rendition of Godzilla's roar. Arguably this is more "Odo Island" than most people need to hear in one sitting, though the effect is admittedly hypnotic.

All in all, this is another impressive (and typically fun) offering in the continuing series. The CD also comes with a bonus CD-ROM, featuring an amusing illustration (Bukimisha group portrait?), some written information (unfortunately in Japanese only), links to the Bukimisha website (also mostly in Japanese) and possibly other features that I haven't figured out. Both discs are attractively packaged in an ultra-slimline case with wrapround artwork, and there are even photos of "Dr. Bukimi" and other group members with Mr. Ifukube. The group was fortunate enough to participate in Ifukube's "90th Birthday Concert" earlier this year, and after the performance the Maestro reportedly informed them, "Your music is unique" - a ringing endorsement if there ever was one!

As with previous CDs in the series, this disc can be ordered directly from the artists. Visit their English webpage at: http://www.bukimi.com/maal/hanpu_english.html , or email Takeo Yahiro (yah@bukimi.com) for more information.

English Title: RITUAL MUSIC OF ODO ISLAND
Japanese Title: GOUKAI Na ODOSHIMA

  1. "RITUAL MUSIC OF ODO ISLAND" (from "Godzilla", 1954)
  2. JAPANESE SUITE (1933 / 1991)

  3. Nocturnal Dance of the Bon-Festival
  4. Fete of Vega
  5. Profane Minstre
  6. Festal Ballad
  7. JAPANESE RHAPSODY (1935)

  8. Nocturne
  9. Fete
  10. SYMPHONIC FANTASIA No. 1 (1983)
  11. HIDDEN TRACK

  12. "RITUAL MUSIC OF ODO ISLAND" (Extended version)