Review Summary: An ethereal journey far ahead of its time.
If there's one thing I know for sure, it's this:
Listening to Astral Voyage
for the first time is an experience
. The second you hear the crashing of waves begin the album on "By the Seaside," you know there's a journey ahead of you. It's not until you fully immerse yourself, however, that you realize how beautiful that journey is.
At his best, Kitaro channels an ethereal, inexplicable presence throughout Astral Voyage
. The man once lived at the foot of Mt. Fuji in utter isolation, and it shows in how deeply unaffected his music is by the world around it, even if it combines traditional Japanese music with European-synth-flair. The attention to progression is simply stunning; the focus deftly changes from calm to dramatic, sorrowful to triumphant. Hell, Sufjan could have learned something from Kitaro; "Beat" rides on a proto-Age-of-Adz-groove that's as instantly captivating as you'd expect it to be.
The music is heavily synth-based, but attention is paid to traditional instrumentation throughout Astral Voyage
; tribal drums, koto, and mandolin weave in and out of soundscapes painted by layers upon layers of synthesizers. Yet the music present here is no simple, pretty, drone; the mood, tempo, and themes change so fluidly between tracks, that you could easily forget that you're supposedly listening to a "New Age" album.
And that's the catch; from an outside view, it could be easy to dismiss Kitaro and his art as "New Age bullsh*t." But "New Age bullsh*t" this is not; Astral Voyage
commands your attention every step of the way. Although one can argue that it is as much of a spiritual experience as it is a musical one, ultimately this only makes the album stronger as a whole. The underlying beauty found here is simply undeniable. In fact, I could have shortened this entire review into four words: "Just listen to it."