The name of the band is taken from the deck number of the hospital which Shima was in.
That is what y'all can go read, verbatim, on SixNorth's site. I don't know what happened with SixNorth bassist-founder Hideyuki Shima, but he bounced back in style and even named his band project after a hospital wing. Whatever it was that was ailing him is no longer an issue (unless he's working there or something). And boy, did he bounce, as this is one mighty Prayer of a debut. Stellar prog~fusion albums from Japan are in no short quantity, and the clichés — what's in the water, etc. — have run rampant for some time, now.
Along with Shima, drummer Hiroshi Matsuda, saxophonist Toru Morichika, and vocalist Chizuko Ura, two keyboardists and two guitarists play on Prayer. While it's likely that both keyboardists — Eisuke Kato and Kunihiro Kameda — appear on a few tracks together, it's safe to assume the axemen alternate. This is one lovely album, crisp & warm, rich in tone and texture, and the showmanship is obvious, but not too flamboyant. There's plenty of room for improv & freakouts, but this affair is largely a premeditated one. Chizuko Ura's wordless vocal on "Magnetic Factor" makes for an intriguing introduction and the composition itself acts as a precursor of things to come, offering a taste of a plate that's conservatively spiced. However, by three tracks in, "Everything Becomes Circle" and 6N is steaming ahead like a runaway locomotive. "...Circle" has a lengthy, rippin' sax solo, and also features KBB's star attraction, violinist Akihisa Tsuboy.
Special attention should be afforded to the midway trio of "The Enneagram," "From Sri Lanka To Titan," and "The Age Of Horus." All three tracks total nearly twenty-five minutes, and feature many of the best melodies & soloing on the album — not easily discernable, since this is a first-rate release with no obvious weak points (unless you really don't want any vocals spread around in your fusion). In fact, Chizuko Ura's crystalline voice is utilized in a nonstandard way, as it enters and leaves much as the other players solo or buttress each others' supporting lines. Ripe with smokin' bass, keyboard & guitar solos, "The Enneagram" first romps through ten minutes of Bruford/Holdsworth/UK/Kenso territory, with the obligatory drum spot; Eisuke Kato's piercing synth lead would be right at home in Kenso, KBB, Keep and other bands whose names start with K! Kato also conjures a swirling analog solo atop Kameda's 'Tronscape.
"From Sri Lanka To Titan" (the title should be a giveaway) begins with the deep, resonant tone of Shima's acoustic (upright) bass, sax squeals as peppered by Toru, and a mahvelously bewitching wail from Chizuko that gathers a haunting momentum the longer she goes on. This is just a prelude; the band abruptly dives headfirst into another extended romp much like in the previous track. Faux-Clav first complements a synth solo, and then spiders about 'neath a steamin' organ solo by Kato. Hiroshi Matsuda's talent suggests he has something to prove, and he may owe Bruf, White, and Wackerman a nod apiece, but his own hands are working the magic, here. After such suiteness, the looser sounding "The Age Of Horus" reconstitutes a wandering middle section that lends an air of spaciness — a nice touch after all of the intensity of the previous two cuts.
Does this sound enticing enough? I hope so, because soup's on. Oh, just in case you happen to be bowled over by this knee-slapping release, and you aren't too familiar with what's lurking in Japanese waters, you could always run down to Syn-Phonic's Japan page (click on this) and open your wallet (you'll also find the Budderfly album, on which some 6N members play). I'm out of time; you know what to do.
Total time: 55:26
- Magnetic Factor
- The Fourth Way
- Everything Becomes Circle
- The Enneagram
- From Sri Lanka to Titan
- The Age of Horus
- Introduction to Richard
- Richard ~ extract from "Fitter Stoke Has A Bath"