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Midas: Beyond The Clear Air

Midas are a Japanese progressive, symphonic band who rely heavily on the interplay between Eisho Lynn on keyboards and Eigo Utoh's electric violin which gives the band quite a unique feel, but in a comfortable, familiar way. Beyond The Clear Air was initially put out way back in 1988 and after its release the band actually split before coming back together again in the mid nineties.

Although describing Midas as a neo prog band goes some way to giving an idea as to the music on offer, there is also Utoh's violin to take into consideration. His playing features heavily and influences the flow of the music throughout in an extremely positive way.

Opening track "Sham Noctiluca" kicks things off in fine epic style with a very grand, almost fanfare like keyboard blast before the violin makes its first impressions. Sometimes leading the track and sometimes used to bolster the guitar less sound, Utoh takes something that would have happily sat on Marillion's Script For A Jester's Tear album and transforms it into Curved Air doing neo prog and undoubtedly it works. Utoh also doubles up as vocalist and be warned they are an acquired taste. He spends a lot of the time in the higher reaches of his register, however when the music is more deliberate his technique blends well with music, it's when the pace picks up that he can stick out like a hair in your soup, very noticeable, but not very desirable. It has to be said that after repeated listens I did find his style less irritating, however for some it may be a major stumbling block. As amy the fact that the vocals are all sung in Japanese. To me it adds to the mystery in the songs, however some may disagree.

Musically however there is little to fault, "The Slough of Despond" has wonderful keyboard playing from Lynn, one moment he's widdling like Tony Banks, the next it's a gentle Harpsichord like refrain, which when mixed with Utoh's violin is very effective indeed.

Clocking in at just under five minutes "Mortuary" is the shortest track on the album and it has a jaunty "Russian" feel to it, with an interesting accordion line leading proceedings along with a classical sway. When you combine that with a more straight ahead keyboard sound and an at times wild violin it's a varied yet compelling journey.

The title track sees Katsuaki Mishima on bass and Kazuo Katayama behind the kit, put in their most intricate performances and for really the only time on the album they are allowed to stretch out and drive the song in parts. It is yet again the songwriters Utoh and Lynn however who raise this song with both combining and sparking off each other to great effect. There's a variety of time changes and Midas are adept at moulding beautiful, stark violin led pieces into wild frantic keyboard inspired work outs without losing the thread or integrity of the songs.

Added to the CD release of Beyond The Clear Air, bonus track "Green Earth" follows in the same vein as the other four tracks on the disc, and unlike so mant bonus offerings stands up well to the original songs included on the album. Granted it's one of Utoh's higher octane vocals, but as with the majority of the songs there are many long instrumental passages packed with atmosphere.

Beyond The Clear Air isn't always a comfortable or straight forward listen and as said the vocals will be a turn off for some, however there is much to recommend about Midas and their individual Western inspired, yet Eastern take on the neo-prog genre.


Track list:
1. Sham Noctiluca
2. The Slough of Despond
3. Mortuary
4. Beyond The Clear Air
5. Green Earth

Added: August 29th 2009
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Musea Records
Hits: 1232
Language: english

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