Air (from Japan)

All Along Air

Knitting Factory Records KFR-302

Koji Kurumatani, Vocals, Electric and Acoustic guitars; Hitoshi Watanabe, bass guitar; Yasuo Sano, drums

All Along Air is a worthwhile record. The playing is exceptional; the singing is pretty good; Koji Kurumatani shows considerable ability as a songwriter and the production is above average. Kurumatani's great strength as a guitarist is communicating vastly different musical aesthetics convincingly and with aplomb. He, and bassist Watanabe (not so much drummer Sano), can play heavy (in the Metal sense, no small achievement for any instrumentalist) and the entire ensemble can definitely swing. Kurumatani's swing eighth note lines are world class with regard to rhythmic execution.

The vocals succeed in that they achieve their role in every song with clarity and grace. The vocal sounds are the best aspects of the production: an unassumingly musical approach to each song and its respective vocal performance. Overall, the production is relatively sparse. Sometimes, this is intentional and appropriate, other times, the artistsí attempts at denser textures do not communicate as such.

Kurumatani has a wonderful feeling for compositional structure, development and choosing which musical materials are strongest and bear repeating. His songwriting craft does not compensate for a shortage of compelling content. Indeed, none of the tracks actually qualify as a start-to-finish good song. The realization of this smartly written, though ultimately thin material is never worse than pretty good and is, at times, excellent.

By Eric Roth

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