Michio Kurihara Sunset Notes

[20/20/20; 2007]

Styles: psychedelic rock, indie rock, post rock
Others: Ghost, Boris, Damon & Naomi

Only just past the halfway mark of 2007, it might already be fated to go into the record books as the year of Michio Kurihara. Though a markedly modest fellow, his talent with the guitar has played a crucial role in two major indie releases. First, his "regular" gig as guitarist in Ghost had him floating into netherregions of psychedelic bliss on the group's In Stormy Nights. Second, he more recently collaborated with cult sludge rock heroes Boris on Rainbow, an album that shows that even a doom metal band can soften its posture in the presence of gracefully meandering six-string wizardry. Now adding to the momentum, Kurihara's first solo album, Sunset Notes, is being released on Damon & Naomi's 20/20/20 label.

Granted, this stateside release follows two years after its initial appearance overseas, but this is music for which the "timeless" label is entirely appropriate. For those of us who have admired from afar Kurihara's fuzzed-out contributions to recordings of bands like Ghost, Damon & Naomi, White Heaven, and The Stars, among others, this is a genuine opportunity to fully bask in his considerable musical prowess. Although tied together thematically by the conceit that each piece is inspired by Kurihara's experience of a specific sunset, what becomes ever more clear with this album is that his talents are inescapably protean in nature, with each track forging a path new and different.

Of course, the one cohesive element is Kurihara's playing, which takes a position of prominence throughout the album; yet aside from one truly solo venture, "Canon in 'C' (C is for Cicada)," this album is a collaborative affair. You Ishihara, Kurihara's co-conspirator from White Heaven and The Stars, appears on several tracks, as does percussionist Ichiro Shibata. There are even two vocal contributions from psych-chanteuse Ai Aso on the aptly named "Wind Waltzes" and "The Wind's Twelve Quarters." Using Aso's gentle voice to the utmost, these are the lightest and airiest moments. In total, what we get is a gorgeous assortment of sonic meditations from a master who rarely takes the spotlight. While Kurihara and his various cohorts may have even more up their collective sleeves for 2007, in the wake of Sunset Notes, it will all be icing on the already lovely cake he's served us.

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