Hit play and suddenly ... nothing happens. There's 30 seconds of silence
before the sound effects slowly swell in your speakers, and the first musical
notes appear almost a full minute later. And then suddenly, its over - and you
realize you've been in a Zen-like state for 36-too-short minutes.
Kites was originally released in 1976, and despite the wonderful music
they put out on the Island label between 1974 and 1978, Jade Warrior was
overshadowed by the greats of the day. They shouldn't have been - but now,
courtesy of Eclectic's excellent remastering - they have another chance to be
heard. This music wears its age very well - and if you heard it for the first
time you'd easily believe it was an eclectic, modern, form of art rock that was
released today. You can't say that about most '70s music.
All-instrumental Kites is as much about the textures and the layers
and the graceful grandeur that builds and fades and rebuilds, as it is about the
notes in the melody. There's a simple rhythm, there are ethereal flutes and
elegant guitars and restrained keys that create outstanding atmospheres with
wonderful minimalist sections. For example "Towards The Mountains" features
gentle layers of ambient wind sounds, a flute plays a simple line which is then
picked up by a a violin (viola?), a piano picks up the theme, then an acoustic
guitar, then it's back to the strings as they slowly start coming together. Very
The "Jade Warriors" used to be Samurais who were at once deadly killers,
poets, and artists. So you'd expect a certain eastern influence in the music,
and in in varying degrees, that is what dominates most of the band's output.
Usually when we describe music as having an eastern inspiration, there are a few
notes, an instrument, some sound bites ... and that's about as far as it goes.
Jade Warrior approaches it from the other end of the scale, and the oriental
influences are far deeper and, oddly, less immediately obvious. It affects the
melodies, the rhythm, the minimalist styles, he song structures, the moods ...
it permeates everything. Yet on first spin, many listeners would simply
think that it's an unusually innovative, delicate piece with a dreamlike
ambience, and a light jazz sound in the forefront.
The track listing shows 12 songs in 36 minutes, for an average of 3 minutes a
piece. But that's misleading because as with so much art rock, most tracks flow
seamlessly into one another, and we have two epics of 19 and 14 minutes, and a
separate 2-track 2-minute piece as a closer. In fact - the two sides of the
original LP depicted two separate concepts. Side one was supposed to be musical
description of a flying kite, and side two was inspired by a traditional
Japanese legend about a boat monk called Zen master Teh Ch'eng.
No single element stands out - and some might criticize the music for its
apparent lack of focal points. True - it's somewhat laid back, and there are few
big crescendos or melodic hooks - but it's a damned nice piece of music at all
levels and it belongs in your collection.
1. Songs of the forest (3:30)
2. Wind song (3:25)
3. The Emperor kite (2:21)
4. Wind borne (7:32)
5. Kite song (2:20)
6. Land of the warrior (3:29)
7. Quietly by the river bank (4:35)
8. Arrival of the Emporer: "What does the venerable sir do?" (2:27)
9. Teh Ch'eng: "Do you understand this?" (1:08)
10.Arrival of Chia Shan: discourse and liberation (0:53)
11.Towards the mountains (2:04)
12.The last question (2:37)