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Review: Kurushimi – Return Series 1 & 2

Late last year Kurushimi began a series of E.P.s. The main focus was to reinterpret prior material. I was going to wait until the series was complete in an attempt to review them all as one thing. As Kurushimi have announced the release of a new album and it’s been a short while since the last E.P. was released, I’ve decided to proceed, as evidenced by this review existing, therefore making this lengthy and somewhat-unwieldy sentence superfluous.

Return 1: Kimon features the song “Return 1: Kimon” and two live tracks; “Movement 1” and “Movement 2”.

“Return 1: Kimon” is a mostly quiet, ambient track. There is a sense of unease throughout the song’s length with occasional appearances of percussion-heavy sounds. The percussion fits as it doesn’t break the unease. There’s also minor saxophone use. It is as sparse as everything outside the percussion. “Return 1: Kimon” flows well. It has a great deal of cohesion. The song is an appropriate introduction to the Return series .

“Movement 1” and “Movement 2” show how chaotic in sound Kurushimi sound in a live setting. There’s a sense of freedom and wideness in the songs. They’re much tighter than they are loose which a. Like “Return 1: Kimon”, they too have a good flow.

Return 2: The Grove has the aptly-named “Return 2: The Grove”, “An Overwhelming Sense of Dread” and Kurushimi’s live performance at the Wasteland. The live performance is named “Live at the Wasteland (20/11/2016)”, which is likely when said performance was performed.

“Return 2: The Grove” partially follows in the footsteps of “Return 1: Kimon”. Whilst the ambience is prominent, it is more of an underlying part of the song. Kurushimi show less restraint on “Return 2…” than on “Return 1…” and so the song is more chaotic. However, the sense of unease remains in the ambient sections.

“An Overwhelming Sense of Dread” is more in the vein of the live performances. There’s a push and pull between the softer, more tense sections and the louder, more chaotic sections. The song builds and crashes without cycling through minimums and maximums. Had it done so and the song would have been tiring. “An Overwhelming Sense of Dread” is an appropriate choice for inclusion as it bridges the gap between the “Return…” and the live songs. It doesn’t swing too hard to either side and thus has a good balance.

“Live at the Wasteland (20/11/2016)” does well to capture Kurushimi as a live unit. The song more brass-heavy than the other songs of the Return series. This gives the song a different kind of shade, so to speak. “Live…” mostly focuses on Kurushimi’s progression through a song. In this regard it is less chaotic. “Live…” works well as a counterpoint to Return 1: Kimon’s live songs.

A continuation can be found across both releases. “Return 1…” being followed by “Return 2…” makes sense. The live songs compliment each other. “An Overwhelming Sense of Dread” kind of sits on its own but fits well.

“Return 2…” is in a sense a more proficient song than “Return 1…” due to the lesser restraint. However, it is slightly weaker. “Return 1…” is a more minimal, sparse track that shows a lot of restraint. Everything it does it doesn’t do more than it needs to and as such the song doesn’t overstep. The result is a really smooth, cohesive piece.

“Return 2…” gives more opportunity for Kurushimi to be more open and freewheeling. Despite some restraint, there is significantly more happening throughout which sees more frequent shifts. The individual sections are god but there’s a disjoint throughout the song. This ends up harming the flow. As such “Return 2…” is not as cohesive or smooth as “Return 1…”.

With that being said, it needs to be stressed that this issue is minor. Conversely it does prevent “Return 2…” from being a retread of “Return 1…”. Had “Return 2…” followed too closely, the experience would have suffered. Furthermore neither song ventures into showoff territory. Both have a sense of balance and sound like a group working together. Both are strong pieces.

The Return series thus far does well to highlight the strengths of the group without their strengths being the focus. The songs compliment each other well. Kurushimi remain tight without compromising on their free, improvisational nature. They songs are lively and inspired. More importantly the songs make for a satisfying listen. It’s hard to tell if the series will continue. So long as Kurushimi keep putting out high quality music, then anything more will be just as appreciated. Hopefully it does as the Return series so far shows that it’s worthwhile.

You can hear Return 1: Kimon here.
You can hear Return 2: The Grove here.

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