Ain Soph are a band to be recognised alongside Kenso, KBB, Asturias or Bi Kyo Ran for the quality of their musicianship and composition. With 4 excellent studio albums to their credit over their 30 years together, this release compiles previously unpublished live studio recordings, taken between 1985 and 1988, of pieces most of which had appeared on the Canterburyesque Hat and Fields as well as one new number from 2005.
Two unreleased works, "Flight" and "Odessa", front the album. "Flight" opens with a frantic keyboard solo in Canterbury vein, joined by fast flowing guitar where the style becomes more attuned to heavy fusion such as Mahavishnu Orchestra. The rather longer "Odessa" is more reflective with delicate piano and guitar passages which build gradually to a faster pace. The drumming is particularly impressive as it steers the piece through its many changes in pace and direction underpinned rhythmically by a figure of 3 repeated chords. There is an adagio section before the pace hots up again for a bit of a discordant blitz on exit.
The next four compositions are all versions of songs from Hat and Fields, or, in once case, Story of Mysterious Forest, and whilst the tracks show what anyone who has seen them live on stage knows, that they are extremely technically accomplished musicians, the drawback sonically is that the tracks sound rather hollow and echoey compared to their fully mastered studio release. The extended guitar solos on "Hat and Field" are one of the highlights however.
The new piece from 2005 was I think played at the last Bajaprog show. It shows all the hallmarks of the fusion/Canterbury style which made the band stand out, with the addition of an exceptional sax player.
Apart from its promotional value to remind everyone they are still out there despite no new full album since 1993, I am always left wondering where a release such as this is to be sold, except to die-hard fans who want to listen to every different nuance of the same song played many times over. If a newcomer was to be pointed to anything by me, it would be to buy the 4 superb studio albums in date order.
3. Pipe Dream
4. Swan lake
5. Magic carpet
6. Hat and Field
7. Natural Selection
8. Triple sequence