Ship by Yuka & ChronoshipRelease date: May 11, 2018
Label: Cherry Red Records
It’s been three years since Yuka & Chronoship have released a new album after the release of The 3rd Planetary Chronicles. For me, it’s been there for me since I’ve listened to their music during that time period. Next year marks the 10th anniversary of the band’s formation in the Land of the Rising Sun. This year, they’ve released their fourth studio album called, Ship. It’s another return from the quartet. And this time, the cargo itself just got even bigger.
Now after The 3rd Planetary Chronicles, I completely forgotten about them. But when I heard they were releasing a new album, I decided to jump onboard their (no pun intended) ship to see what the band has in store for their next adventures. Robin Williams once said, “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You musn’t lose it.” And that’s what Yuka Funakoshi has been doing. She’s kept that spark and has never let go of it. She along with the band members have been doing this from day one and there’s not a stop sign from them. They’re not a band, but a family.
The ‘Argo’ suite which is on the new album, contains seven tracks which is inspired by the Greek mythology of the boat that Jason sailed from lolcos and Colchis to get the Golden Fleece, which is a symbol of authority and kingship. The ship was built and named after by the builder, Argus, son of Artestor. The album includes two guests on the album that include Curved Air’s Sonja Kristina and singer-songwriter Hiroyuki Izuta.
Ship is an adventure that will take you be a part of not just Jason’s adventure to retrieve the Fleece, but a part of Yuka & Chronoship’s symphonic adventures to be a part of their story. Opener, ‘Tears of the Figurehead’ begins with the ship creaking back and forth. Yuka herself does this haunting piano movement before Sonja comes in as she sings, “Where do we come from?/Where are we going?/Where are we born?/Where do we die?” and then Yuka follows her by creating this ghostly background with her vocals.
It’s the question that asks of what lies ahead and knowing that Jason is going through a gigantic challenge that is ready for him as it segues towards the ‘The Ship Argos’. It feels almost like an overture for Yuka & Chronoship to set voyage of finding the fleece and returning home. I can hear some aspects of Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso’s Darwin-era as Yuka creates these ticking clock sounds on her keyboards. And then Shun, Takashi, and Ikko follow suit. Yuka is like a conductor and giving the band directions on where they would set the landing gears to find dry land. It’s heavy, usage of the synths, and not to mention Miyazawa’s exuberant guitar work to bring the tidal waves to crash at any second.
I felt a little tug with Takashi’s heavy riffs to make the shores a rough hit by paying a nod to early Sabbath that he does as his riffs and Ikko’s bass drum’s with ‘Landing’. Yuka gives Takashi some brainstorming ideas to come up with some textures to come up with next. You can imagine the Argonauts going through the rough situations before Triton who helps by holding the rocks so that the Argo can pass through.
Takashi does some of these Egyptian middle-eastern textures as if giving the listener some ideas of what’s going to happen in the story. ‘Golden Fleece’ is Yuka’s nod to the late great Keith Emerson as she goes into the last section of Tarkus with ‘Aquatarkus’. Yuka is tipping her hat to the legend and not only that, but Mastodon’s opening organ introduction on ‘The Czar’ from Crack The Skye.
‘A Dragon that Never Sleeps’ has this Rush-like intro that Taguchi does on his Bass as he pays nod by reminiscing the styles of Geddy Lee. It’s kind of a swoosh run of his take of ‘YYZ’ from Moving Pictures. Taguchi is making sure to have the fuzz-tone sound and making sure the fires burning and never hitting the water. ‘Islands in the Stream’ is Takashi’s folky-sque acoustic guitar brings a chance for the boat to head back home.
And then, Yuka brings the synths bring the shining atmosphere as she goes both to the piano and the mellotron for a couple of seconds and then the punching sections between Takashi and Ikko coming in as they let the listener they’ve arrived on shore after a long and difficult journey as the seguing of the ‘Return’ is the end of the suite as Yuka brings everything into a fanfare finale that comes full circle.
‘The Airship of Jean Giraud’ is dedicated to the late great comic book artist simply known as Moebius whose best known for his work with Blueberry, The Incal, Arzach, and his run with the Silver Surfer on the two-issue miniseries, Parable. Yuka & Chronoship brings forth a tribute to the master by combining the crossovers between Premiata Forneria Marconi’s Storia Di Un Minuto and Camel’s Moonmadness period. It’s joyous, breathtaking, melodic and moody.
‘Old Ship on the Grass’ has this dance between the Ukulele and Acoustic Guitar as its watching the sun to rise for the ship that has done its job across the seas for many years for the accomplishment and the work it has done. The bass drum is doing a beat as Yuka goes through her melody between the organ and her vocalizations to know that home has approached.
‘Did You Find A Star?’ is the closing track that is sung by Hiroyuki Izuta. It starts off as a ballad, but then it changes into a soaring rhythm before landing back on the moon for a recharge. When you listen to Hiroyuki’s vocals, it has this reminisce of PFM’s Franco Mussida as Takashi does this nod to Camel’s Andy Latimer with some of the spacey and bluesy effects on his guitar.
Ship is going to be one of the early favourites to be my album of the year so far. Yuka & Chronoship have come a long way. As I’ve mentioned in my introduction, the band will celebrate their 10th anniversary in 2019. It’s hard for me to describe why Ship is one of their finest, but that’ll be another time. Yuka & Chronoship have unleashed something special and Ship is as I’ve mentioned in some of the albums, a movie inside your head.