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bill wells & maher shalal hash baz - Osaka Bridge
Uniting the disparate elements of Scottish jazz-guru Bill Wells and Japan's willfully amateur Maher Shalal Hash Baz ensemble, 'Osaka Bridge' is an album that doesn't shirk from it's lofty aspirations - bringing a juxtaposition of styles together and reigning them into collaboration without losing either party's creative finger-print. With obvious comparisons ranging from Syd Barrett and David Axelrod, through to The Incredible String Band and The Beach Boys, 'Osaka Bridge' pulls threads of jazz, folk, improvisation, rock and classical - then knits them into a flowing fabric of strange (yet appealing) lustre. Opening through the calm-sea of 'Rye and Guy', Wells and Maher Shalal Hash Baz indulge in some dwindling horns that appear utterly benign on the surface - but allow your ears to drift a little deeper and you'll reveal a foreboding composition that wears it's gravitas with deceptive lightness. With rich and generous arrangements from Wells and a cluttered style from Maher Shalal Hash Bez, 'Osaka' could have suffered from endless aural friction as polarised styles repelled the other - yet whilst this conflict might have prompted moments of interest, the overall stance of collaboration is much more satisfying over a full LP. Managing to sound not unlike Air's soundtrack work on 'The Dust Of Moths', particular highlights emerge when Reiko Kudo (wife of Maher leader Tori Kudo) takes to the mic for vocal duties - with the campfire torch song 'Time Takes Me So Back' and it's treated piano a genuine joy. Similarly, the Tori Kudo fronted 'Cowtail Calypso' (a song that arose when Wells asked Kudo to sing Roger Miller’s 'King Of The Road' over a syncopated, propulsive melody) is both esoteric and thoroughly appealing, whilst the broiling rhythms and spittal-flecked horns of 'Liquorice Tics' can't help but bring a smile to your face. Closing through the piano-led fragility of 'On The Beach Boys Bus (Reprise)', Bill Wells & Maher Shalal Hash Baz have crafted an album that enhances any mood and deserves to be heard well beyond the broadsheet-ghetto to which it's intellectual stance could readily have it consigned. Welling up!