(06 August 2000) Progressive rock band Wappa Gappa's debut album
Yamatai (Air From Mt Fuji (Japan) AIR-5001, 1996) is comprised
of eight vocally-laced progressive rock tracks. Formed originally
in 1992, the Japanese musicians have released two albums
to vast acclaim from the progressive music press. Reviews
in Big Bang (Fr), Exposé (US), Harmonie (Fr),
Progression (US), Metamusica (Br), Prog-résiste (Fr)
and at the
Dutch Progressive Rock Page (www) of their recordings
have all been very favourable.
Fronted by stunning mezzo soprano
Tamami Yamamoto, other band members include Keizo Endo (electric bass),
Yasuhiro Tachibana (guitars), Hideaki Nagaike (keyboards) and Hiroshi
Mineo (drums). Although almost all of the vocal work is in Japanese,
the band's sound is somewhat influenced by other Japanese progressive
bands as well as Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes. A strong similarity
in sound to Argentina's Nexus (review) and
Tamami's vocals to Nexus' vocalist Mariela González is evident from
Yamatai typifies Japanese progressive rock with lush
keyboard-based instrumental arrangements and soaring vocals, often
mixed right up where Musical Discoveries readers like them.
Tamami Yamamoto's voice is smooth and strong, soloing without the
need for backing vocals. Dynamic instrumentals are well played
with individual members' parts contributing to the band's overall
sound. Time signatures and melodies change frequently adding to
the interest and progressive texture of the album.
Opening with the 11+ minute epic "Yamataikoku" (Yamatai country),
individual Wappa Gappa band members take turn in demonstrating their
musical prowess. The guitar solos and quiet instrumental supported
vocal passages are especially notable. From Exposé, "Fans of
Annie Haslam style singing should get this for the voice of
Yamamoto alone." We couldn't agree more.
Styles vary with keyboard sounds as the eight tracks of the album
develop. Almost every one has a solo section where instrumental
excursions dominate creating a "stadium rock" atmosphere. Guitar
solos, crisp percussion and harmonious keyboards contrast Tamami's
lovely lead vocal. The album's quieter tracks feature the lead
vocalist and further illustrate the band's virtuosity without
letting the listener forget this is a progressive rock album.
These include the sensitively sung "Yuki-bana" (Snowflakes)
and highly atmospheric texture of "Angel's Song" (sung and spoken
in English and Japanese with extensive vocalise) both somewhat
reminscent of Quidam
(studio album review, live
Several tracks are most progressive in their construction and the
similarity to the Nexus sound is uncanny. "Gereki no Hakobune"
(An ark of rubble) and "Ngwachurei" (I miss you) [sung in Cantonese]
certainly fit this category with their driving guitar parts, rich
keyboard arrangements and powerful lead vocal. The evocative vocal
in "Ngwachurei" is especially notable. This is contrasted with a
jazz-oriented easy listening style, but not without Wappa Gappa's
typical instrumental bridge, in "Amanogawa" (Milky way).
The closing track "Toughenkyo" (Shangri-La) is most symphonic with
its dynamic melody and instrumental riffs driven equally by guitar
and keyboard. Tamami's powerful vocal, sung in a lower register
than most of the other tracks on the ablum, is more reminscent of
Lana Lane (review) in the beginning of
the track, but returns to her natural range as the track and album
come to a close. The debut album from Wappa Gappa has something for
every progressive rock listener; worth a cross-country journey
it is certainly a must listen!