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Yuka & Chronoship: Ship

Ship is the fourth album from Japanese prog rock/metal outfit Yuka & Chronoship, the band’s leader being the lady behind the keyboards, piano and on occasion, microphone. Surrounding herself with seasoned session men from the Japanese scene (Shun Taguchi (bass), Takashi Miyazawa (guitars), Ikko Tanaka (drums)), Yuka and her Chronoship began to make waves outside their homeland with their third album, The Third Planetary Chronicles, and on the strength of the follow up, Ship, it’s easy to hear why. So called because the first seven of the eleven pieces presented here are based round Argo, the ship from Greek mythology, this largely conceptual album mixes instrumental outbursts with three vocal tracks. Only one of which falls into the Argo suite and which is sung by no less than Sonja Kristina of Curved Air fame. Admittedly she only has eight lines of lyrics to deal with, but her presence is most definitely felt as this outfit set the tone and build the scene.

Much of the texture and flow comes from Yuka herself, but the contribution from Miyazawa’s guitars really can’t be underplayed. He’s immense both in touch and feel, but also in the thundering fret runs that pepper this album. Always tasteful, always added where the music requires and always built with a real sympathy for their surrounds, these forays are, nonetheless, full on and deeply impressive. However, what makes the likes of “Golden Fleece” and “A Dragon That Never Sleeps” all the more engaging are the deep melodies and ever changing moods, where one minute we are pensive and thought provoking, the next, darting, dangerous and daring, as the journey moves from open seas to all out battle and back again. Undoubtedly we’re looking back to the likes of Yes or ELP for inspiration as the musical battles rage on, but with a sharp production and updated feel, you can bring in Spock’s Beard, or even Enchant to the equation; heaviness mixed with restraint as riffs augment a melody based framework.

Short though it would have been, Ship would have sailed proudly on its Argo pieces alone, but having a further four workouts that match the intensity and storytelling style, without falling into the story itself, simply keeps the intricate and on occasion, fiery, good times flowing. The keyboard crescendos and powerful rhythmical work from Taguchi and Tanaka possibly even more dramatic as Yuka adds Japanese vocals to “Visible Light”, her smooth vocal tones somewhat of a revelation given their all too brief appearance. Vocal textures are, however, also added to “The Airship Of Jean Giraud” and I have to say that the hypnotic chanting that sparks off the proud keyboard/guitar combinations is thoroughly captivating in a way that suggests it would have fuelled an anime film quite beautifully.

Hiroyuki Izuda is the focal point for the final vocal track, his style surprisingly not too dissimilar to Paul McCartney in places, as the album’s most patient, almost whimsical piece winds things to a close in fantastic style. However, with the jaunty (almost stereotypically French feeling) “Old Ship On The Grass” adding a completely unexpected sidestep, it’s the instrumental work that is the true strength of this album.

As the saying goes, this is my first encounter with Yuka & Chronoship, but it certainly won’t be my last. However, over and above that, I’d add that Ship is one of the most bewitching progressive workouts I’ve heard for quite some time. Varied, skilled and engaging, the mix of instrumental dexterity and more song based moments is balanced perfectly, allowing it to become both exciting and enticing on an equal footing. That in itself is unusual, and as such marks Yuka & Chronoship out as being something rather special.

Track Listing

Added: January 28th 2019
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Ship at Cherry Red
Hits: 715
Language: english

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Yuka & Chronoship: Ship
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2019-01-29 04:00:11
My Score:

Yuka & Chronoship is a Japanese progressive rock band which formed in 2009. They released their debut Water Reincarnation in 2011, followed by Dino Rocket Oxygen (2013), The 3rd Planetary Chronicles (2015) and their latest offering Ship (2018).

I have been following the band for a number of years (since 2013) and I haven’t heard a bad song yet. Their last album The 3rd Planetary Chronicles was excellent and with their new release they have hit a home run. Ship is an exceptional progressive rock album. The vocals, keyboards, guitar, bass and drums are incredibly well played; they are certainly one of the most talented bands around. Besides the great playing you also get some wonderful melodies beginning with the first track “Tears Of The Figurehead”, one of seven tracks that make up ‘The ARGO Suite’. Sonja Kristina (Curved Air) adds guest vocals to this one and they are one of the album’s highlights as she is in fine form. A lovely repeating piano line adds mood and texture along with creaking ship effects. You will swear you are on the ocean as you listen. Moody effects and dramatic symphonic bursts highlight “The Ship Argos”. A deep bass groove soon develops as the band venture into progressive metal territory. A ripping guitar solo is the icing on the cake. It’s a thrilling song brimming with progressiveness from beginning to end. The heavy guitar in “Landing” has some Black Sabbath qualities and is supplemented with organ and wonderful string orchestrations. The groove is deep and cutting and the squelching guitar solo lends to a heavy rock sound. The symphonic prog of “Golden Fleece” is filled with delightful organ play while the uplifting melody and fabulous guitar and bass highlight the grandiose sounding “A Dragon That Never Sleeps”. The clean synths and guitar arpeggios in “Islands In The Stream” are really impressive. A lovely piano and enchanting backing vocal engages while the drums get heavy and another scorching guitar solo unfolds. “Return” marks a symphonic end to ‘The ARGO Suite’ in grand and dramatic fashion. More great keyboard and guitar solos can be heard in “The Airship Of Jean Giraud” as the band exhibits some great chops taking on both heavy and lighter moments. Another song for progressive rock fans to get excited about. The last track “Did You Find A Star?” has the band finessing around lovely flute keyboards and piano. The male lead vocals are wonderful and yes, the dreamy and atmospheric guitar solo is another stunning display of workmanship.

I can’t say state enough just how good this album is. Yuka & Chronoship have outdone themselves this time making one of the best progressive rock albums of 2018. Absolutely recommended.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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