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CD Review: On Ensemble – Dust and Sand

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When I first put On Ensemble’s Dust and Sand in my CD player, I didn’t know what to expect. Traditional taiko with nontraditional jazz, rock and electronic influences is not something one hears all the time.

Taiko, which translates as “big drum” in Japanese, dates back centuries ago and was used in religious ceremonies, on the battlefield, court music and in traditional Japanese celebrations, as well as in Kabuki theater. In the 1950’s, taiko began to evolve into a dynamic performing art.

On Ensemble mixes the traditional sound of taiko with other instruments, such as flutes, koto (Japanese zither), turntables and Tuvan throat singing, as well as many percussion instruments. The result? An exciting, unique and captivating sound unlike any you have heard before.

Dust and Sand features eight songs, ranging from instrumental only, like the mesmerizing “Gengakki”, to songs that incorporate vocals, such as “Fingertips” and “Two by Four”, to the more modern sounds of turntables and electronic processors on “Zeecha” and “Same Planet”.

The last track on the album, “Taiko Overtone Quartet” is a beautiful example of the skill that On Ensemble has, as well as one of the most innovative sounds I’ve ever heard.

It is nearly impossible to capture the sound of On Ensemble with words, so try to do your best to catch them if they come to a town near you and pick up Dust and Sand when it hits the streets on December 20, 2005.

Check out the band’s website at OnEnsemble.org.

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