To understand the story of Electric Asturias, you have to travel back in time a quarter of a century.
Asturias was the name for multi-instrumentalist Yoh Ohyama, who released three brilliant, albeit rather overlooked gems. The debut, A Circle in the Forest (1988) is a brilliant Mike Oldfield inspired album of delicate pastoral melodies mixed with a screaming guitar with a sustain that would make Mike Oldfield cry. The entire album leaves you with the feeling that you are walking through a beautiful forest somewhere and there is one bird desperately trying to get your attention, but you keep on walking. Saddened, it eventually quits calling.
Brilliant Streams came two years later and is shockingly similar to A Circle in the Forest without being at all repetitive.
Cryptogram Illusion was the last of Ohyama’s solo albums, and is perhaps the best. It is certainly the most energetic and complex. Where the first two were relaxing affairs, this is more like watching two chipmunks fighting over the last acorn before the winter snows arrive. The sonic pallet is also much broader, giving hints of what would come a decade later.
That would be Acoustic Asturias, where Ohyama takes his musical vision to a small chamber orchestra. In some respects, this is a step back to the beginning as the music is pastoral, yet there is an energetic tension to most of it. A Birds Eye View is the sole EP released under this format. He would continue on with the name Acoustic Asturias but add a rather large electric band, including some wonderful Mellotron, for the gorgeous In Search of the Soul Trees. For those that heard the previous Acoustic Asturias effort and passed on Soul Trees, you might have made a mistake. The compositions are similar, but take on a totally different sound with the larger ensemble. It ebbs and flows through an album length suite that is just beautiful.
That brings us to Electric Asturias where Ohyama takes us off in another musical direction. This time the instrumentation is rather basic – guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and violin. What they lack in numbers they more than make up for in volume, energy and technique. This quintet just smokes.
Fortunately, there is a wealth of video game music that Ohyama has composed while his various Asturias projects have come and gone. This new electric band is the perfect vehicle to reintroduce them, much as Motoi Sakuraba has done with his composed or arranged soundtrack albums.
As you can see and hear from this clip, Electric Asturias is not a band to be missed.