review - 10.19.2008 08:00

SUGIZO delivers a fresh batch of old songs.

After more than ten years as a solo artist, Japanese rock legend SUGIZO is presenting his first greatest hits compilation. Noted for being the guitarist of the iconic LUNA SEA and several other bands since, SUGIZO began releasing his own compositions in 1997 with TRUTH?, and has since consistently delivered unique music, always transcending the standards of the present music scene. SUGIZO LIFE WORK/COSMOSCAPE will take you on a journey through musical revolution.

The album opens with the track COSMOSCAPE. It starts with a hypnotic acoustic guitar and an ethnic female vocal track. The track is a smooth blend of acoustic guitar and ambient electronic music, later featuring a loud, metallic electric guitar: a typical SUGIZO track. The second track is a nice contrast, being more aggressive and forceful. TELL ME WHY? is a deep trance track with more electric guitar. The song has strong momentum, playing with various house music effects and smooth, soulful female vocals. TELL ME WHY? ends with a fade to silence, and the next track, THE CAGE, is introduced softly. This song has more of SUGIZO's signature guitar work overlaid nicely on the break-beats and sharp vocals.

The compilation really picks up in smart composition with KANON. The song is a smooth blend of plucked cello with small interjections of piano and guitar, while LOU LAMB sings serenely. The piano on the track is performed by none other than RYUICHI SAKAMOTO, and some small, soft whispers are done by SUGIZO himself. After KANON comes EUROPA and Le Fou. Both of these tracks show their age, but are fine examples of ambient instrumentation. Neither track would stick out if performed live, and they provide a beautiful backdrop to the album.

DELIVER... is a delightful jazzy track, with a calm drum and bass backbone, and an assortment of other noises, intertwined with smooth distorted vocals. The track breaks into loud electronic samples, but remains in tact as a solid jazz track to the end. Following DELIVER... is Elan Vital, a track original to this album. It is a wonderful abstract song, including many unique samples and a very strange mood. After that is Rest In Peace & Fly Away, which is, as one would imagine, a rather soft and light track. The song definitely has a unique place on the album, although it isn't quite right where it is.

The tenth track, RISE, is a lovely experimental track using a basic dance rock beat, woven together with a blend of guitars and a thumping electronic beat. The track presents intelligent composition and is a song that fits many moods, without the usual accompanying generic tone. The track's biggest highlights are several well-presented solos. After the end of RISE, SUGIZO introduces tribal drumming, chanting and a voice in a foreign language to begin INITIATION. INITIATION is a very slow, downbeat tune with whispered, androgynous vocals. The very thick atmosphere encompasses layered-track vocals, acoustic guitar, marimba and, of course, electric guitar. While the track isn't something that will go down as memorable, it serves a strong purpose creating heavy moods, and is more appreciated for its imposing aftertaste. The track to follow plays off this strange feeling with an upbeat, radio-friendly song, SWEET. The song has wholesome, poppy male vocals, positive guitar solos and an acoustic mood. SWEET would be well-suited to a movie soundtrack.

Akai Umi to Kuro no Sora no Soryouchi opens strong with an acidic jazzy flavor, playing off of synthesized backgrounds and a soulful guitar overlay. Withering gasps intersect a deep bass tone that is as much of a challenge to speakers as it is to one's ears, but only in the best possible way. SUGIZO shows off his finger dexterity again with a screeching, relentless guitar solo, and as the song continues building, it falls to pieces in a chaotic outro; this is very appropriate.

VOICE and Synchronicity end SUGIZO LIFE WORK, and these tracks do well to sum up all of the elements of the album. VOICE takes care of the more refined, accessible music with friendly beats and a clean vocal bit, while Synchronicity covers the ambient and experimental side of the disc. The track was originally featured on Silent Voice ~Acoustic Songs of Soundtrack~, but finds its home here even more comfortably. The ending of the album is a great representation of the years of masterful music creation, production and performance for the Japanese guitar idol SUGIZO.

SUGIZO LIFE WORK/COSMOSCAPE is a clean album, suffering from only some minor issues of track synchronization, where some of the tracks are a bit misaligned within the album's structure. However, each individual track is a miniature masterpiece. Side effects of this album include lust for smart composition, a growing affinity for guitar solos and an appreciation for synthesized music.
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