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Joji Hirota: The Gate

East meets west in distinctive, andd mostly artistically effective ways on the first album for RealWorld by Japanese-born musician Joji Hirota, The Gate (RealWorld 13275; 61:19). With this freely conceptualized tone poem, mixing Taiko drumming, European-waxing string writing, pleasant shakuhachi sonorities, and other ideas for spice, Hirota creates a soothing soundscape, which he dedicates to the memory of his father and his Taiko teacher. A sense of considered emotional reflection and eclectic outlook dignifies much of the cultural crossover experiment, allowing us to disregard the pastiche effect at work here. In lesser moments, though, the use of cheesy synth pads, however low in the mix, and maudlin melodies bring an otherwise moving project dangerously close to the strip mall banalities of new age music.

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