Gaia Onbashira


Domo Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Despite over a decade of reviewing music, I've often admitted there are many genres I have much to learn about. Two of these are new age and world music. While I am no expert on either of these types of music, I do know what I like when I hear it, even if I cannot yet appreciate the subtleties of the songs.

In the case of Kitaro, we have a merge of both new age and world music. His latest release, Gaia Onbashira, was my first taste of a multi-instrumentalist who has been called the "godfather of new age". And while the cosmic aspects went right over my head, the music had some moments where it became very intriguing.

Much of the music on Gaia Onbashiramy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 sounds a lot like songs I heard when I saw the film Dead Man Walking - very earthy rhythms backed by plaintive bellows and chants. In some cases, the effect was quite eerie, but it was used to its best effect on "Kiotoshi," which had more of a rhythm to it. In a sense, you could have almost called it "new age meets pop" with some of the thunder in the chorus.

Ethnically, besides the obvious Japanese flavor of the disc (rooted in Kitaro's home land), there are also touches of Central and South American instrumentations hidden throughout the album. Songs like "Yamadashi" (which opens with over a minute of bird calls - not the best way to kick off the disc) seem to have a more earthy sound to the instruments. Whether these are synthesized or actual native instruments I can't tell - but if they're synthesized, they're pretty damn good samples.

There are only two drawbacks to Gaia Onbashira that I can think of. First, I honestly don't think that a lot of people are going to take a chance on this disc (let's be honest, had it not been sent to me courtesy of the kind folk at Domo, I probably wouldn't have tried it out myself). New age music tends to have a stigma attached to it, driving potential listeners away from it like garlic to Dracula. But the overall peacefulness of the music tends to be a nice alternative to some of the sludge we hear on a daily basis, and could be used to, as I say, clean out the pipes (strange, that's two reviews in a row I've used that phrase).

However, in this strength lies its second weakness. Gaia Onbashira is such a relaxing disc that if you're not paying attention, it's going to go in one ear and out the other. To get through the disc and achieve the maximum enjoyment from it, the listener is going to have to carefully listen to it. Songs like "Misty" fade out before you even know it has started - not that it's a bad track.

Is Kitaro worth checking out? I will admit, after listening to Gaia Onbashira, I am a little more intrigued by this musician, and plan on checking out some of his older work. If you're not careful, this disc might instill an interest in new age music in you - and that's not necessarily a bad thing to have.

Rating: B-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Domo Records, and is used for informational purposes only.