Sonkei - Rōnin Arkestra (Album Rapid Review)
27 September 2019
Album Rating 4 / 5
Live Potential 4 / 5
Solo Performances 4.5 / 5
Diversity in Songs 3.5 / 5
Favourite Songs Cosmic Collisions, Tempestuous Temperaments, Onkochishin
Japanese jazz supergroup Rōnin Arkestra return with their debut album Sonkei after their triumphant debut EP First Meeting released back in March this year. The LP fuses 60s deep and spiritual jazz with experimental electronica to create a fantastic, ethereal journey of sonic bliss.
Bandleader Mark de Clive-Lowe has been on a musical journey himself by exploring his Japanese heritage, as heard in his exceptional and personal double-album Heritage and Heritage II, yet he states in his interview with bandcamp daily that this project with "Ronin Arkestra is just about doing it with my Japanese homies". MdCL chose the name Rōnin to reflect the samurai status of each band member, with all being master musicians from different groups such as Melraw, Kyoto Jazz Massive, Sauce81, Cro Magnon, Rootsoul, WONK, and Sleepwalker, as he can boast his "homies" to be the some of the most innovate players in the Japanese jazz and electronica scene.
Inspired by different episodes from the Samurai Champloo, an Edo-era Japanese anime series, Sonkei starts with the meditative prologue 'Lullabies of the Lost' before the hip-hop breakbeat style drums illuminate 'Onkochishin' as the whole group flex their improv skills with aplomb as they are taken in different directions by the additional effects. 'Elegy of Entrapment' is an extended version of 'Redeye Reprisal' that is on their First Meeting EP, but seems to have a much more spiritual feel with shades of electronica helping it reach that higher level. The best track is the first single 'Cosmic Collisions' which has an abundance of natural power in its 3/4 groove that sustains throughout as it is a phenomenal funk stomper. 'Tempestuous Temperaments' ends the album on a heavier feel which really drills home how easily they all seem to bend these complex rhythms and phrasing with inventive solos into pure satisfaction and joy. The other tracks feature some fine horns work as they reflect the more relaxed side of the LP.
Whilst I definitely have a preference for the more intense, busier tunes on the album, there is an excellent balance of songs that take you on a journey from relaxed states of tranquillity through astute horns riffs, to frenzied and impulsive melodies that are enhanced by irresistible drums and electronic effects. The result is a beautiful take on spiritual jazz as Rōnin Arkestra have an assured originality to their sound.
Read our other Rōnin Arkestra and Mark de Clive-Lowe reviews here:
You can keep up to date with Rōnin Arkestra through their Facebook:
And purchase and stream Sonkei here:
Rōnin Arkestra are:
Mark de Clive-Lowe (Piano / Keys / Live Electronics / Musical Direction) Wataru Hamasaki (Saxophone / Flute) Kohei Ando (Saxophone) Ruike Shinpei (Trumpet) Sauce81(FX) Tsuyoshi Kosuga (Guitar) Kenichi Ikeda (Bass) Hikaru Arata (Drums) Nobuaki Fujii (Drums) Shun Ishiwaka (Drums)