Makoto Yoshimori – A Song Is On Your Side

4 out of 5

Label: Apollo Black Records

Produced by: Makoto Yoshimori (?)

Coming to this album off the back of some of composer Makoto Yoshimori’s soundtracks – for Baccano, Durarara!! – I was admittedly a little underwhelmed. The opening title track and followup The Reverse Side of the Moon are both quite beautiful, solo piano works, but they’re also very restrained, and put an expectant listener like m’self in a position of having to search for the quirk and nuance heard in the aforementioned scores. These are, rather, very traditional minimalistic jazz or mellow pop tunes, befitting the wistful song titles; not especially grabbing on their own.

It’s something of a feint, though. The cover art has a swooping black line that eventually is regurgitated into rainbow, and that’s rather the flow we follow here, bursting into color: A Review In Heaven starts on the same mellow notes but soon breaks out into some exciting, off-beat staccato playing. Over nine minutes, Yoshimori whips up a relative frenzy, still playing solo, but melding more complex scales and rhythms with unique transgressions and bridges between those transgressions. The momentum is built on from there, bringing in horn accompaniment and voice – the latter purely stylistic stuff, chanting atop Yoshimori’s exciting playing – and peaking in the completely free form, broken His Moving With a Good For Nothing.

After hitting that high note, Yoshimori walks us back to the beginning, sifting through some more animated solo works, and then to the gorgeous subtlety of closer The Secret of the Fifth Floor, assisted with some strings by Kaori Takahashi. This last track highlights what I think could’ve helped the opening ones: while I very much appreciate the cycle of the whole experience, the first couple songs still lack (to my ear) elements that differentiate them from other players, and it’s a bit of a gamble to give us not just one but two songs like that right at the start, even if it proves to be an effective lead-in to shaking things up.

Regardless, at the end of A Song Is On Your Side, it’s recognizable as the same inventive, unpredictable composer as the one behind those soundtracks, wringing plenty of new sounds and material out of his chosen instrument.