Kodo: The Hunted - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Sony/TriStar WK 67202

Reviewed by Jack Donen

Within a very short time, Sony has put out two new releases with the Japanese taiko-drummers, the Kodo group. Why two new CDs? For many fans, that's an unnecessary question.
Kodo has long been established as a master group in the world of Japanese drumming, perhaps rather in the world of drumming as a whole. They are masters of precision, masters of the beat, masters of a powerful sound that will always test the quality of your hi fi setup, and the patience of your neighbours.
If you've ever heard a taiko drum group live, you'll be familiar with the peculiar tingling, buzzing experience in your breast, as it vibrates sympathetically with the swinging skin of the huge o-daiko, not to speak of the many smaller taiko drums.
So, why two new CDs? Well, what's special about these recordings is that neither is a regular studio recording:
'The Hunted' is a motion picture soundtrack, and as such, not quite what one is used to from Kodo. The film is an action adventure, about an American businessman in Japan. He witnesses the murder of a certain, mysterious woman, Kirina, and is then chased by the killers. The album consists of the musical accompaniment to 15 sequences from the story.
Being a Western film, it's perhaps not surprising to find that the rhythms on this CD are somewhat more syncopated than one normally expects from Kodo. For example there's the use of cymbals and bamboo shakers on quite a few of the tracks, the high, sharp tonal effects of these instruments creating a sort of contrapuntal percussive effect, countering the deeper and heavier drums.
It's an effect that Kodo normally uses more sparingly. Also the sevenminute closing number sounds, in quite long passages, almost like a jam session for jazz percussionists, each getting a chance to do his solo. Besides this, there are a couple of very short synthesizer sequences, dedicated to the lady Kirina.
So, all in all, the album is pretty much tailored to Western ears.

This review was originally published in print in Djembe Magazine, no. 16, April 1996.

Used with permission

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