When it comes to Avant-Garde, Contemporary Chamber Music, and a dosage of Rock in Opposition, you can quite expect something jumping right at you when you leap out of your seat of the music and sound of Yugen. Yugen formed 10 years ago in the autumn by guitarist Francesco Zago and AltrOck label founder Marcello Marinone who wanted to create the two genres and it was an orientated sound of them with a dosage of Rock.
The band released three albums from 2006 to 2010 and in 2012 with their live album called, Mirrors. It was recorded at the RIO Fest on September 17, 2011 in the commune of Carmaux, France. Alongside Francesco Zago and despite line-up changes, the band considers Paolo “Ske” Botta on Keyboards, Valerio Cipollone on Sax and Clarinet, Maurizo Fasoli on Piano, Jacopo Costa on Marimba and Vibes, Matteo Lorito on Bass Guitar, and Michele Salgarello on Drums.
Listening to this amazing performance, you can close your eyes and imagine yourself being at the RIO Fest watching the seven-piece really going into town and applauding and cheering for them on a job well done. There’s some intensity and shrieking moments on their instruments and the time changes going into different areas that just sends chills down my spine with some touches in tribute to; Univers Zero, Present, King Crimson, Magma, Frank Zappa, and Gentle Giant and they are true to their roots of Progressive Rock and Rock in Opposition and I would imagine the master Zappa himself would be so proud of Yugen so much.
I first became aware of Yugen’s music with the 2012 documentary of Romantic Warriors II: A Progressive Music Saga About Rock in Opposition and I became hooked into the scene and the band’s music just completely took me by surprise. It’s hard to pick some favorites because I was spellbound when I was listening to the album from start to finish. Not to mention four centerpieces. I love their take of Henry Cow’s Industry because it captures the essence of their music and Zago’s heavy homage to Fred Firth is like a swirling nightmare thanks to Botta’s keyboards.
At times, it feels as if they are doing the score to Alejandro Jordorowsky’s surreal western, El Topo, but it gave me goosebumps from the sound of the different beats following in the time changes along with Cipollone’s homage to Tim Hodgkinson. Brachilogia brings a sinister, ominous, and frightening touch but with a calming moment at times thanks to Costa’s vibes and Cipollone’s sax setting the tension like a roaring beast following by Fasoli’s Piano and the crescendos to give it a shrieking finale.
Cloudscape shows the band their ambient/atmospheric side in the realms of German Electronic Music with touches to Tangerine Dream’s Zeit-era before it spreads through the synth, sax, guitar, and piano rooms and comes together and the magic is working before the minor chords close it off. The 12-minute Free Jazz-Psych-Chamber Rock-Canterbury-Zappa haywire swirling crescendos on Becchime, gives the band a chance to lend out their instruments and have their creative freedom and you can never expect to see where Yugen would go next.
I have listened to Mirrors about three times now and I am completely blown away of the live album. It has a 9-page booklet including liner notes by Sid Smith that features pictures of the group and the history of the band along with Zago’s interview as well. It may not be easy to listen to, but once you put the headphones on, you can really expect something out of the blue for the door to be kicked down to experienced something fresh and exciting.