Show and tell

Just on the strength of the songwriting alone, AJICO’s debut album Fukamidori positively shines.

And while the group opted to present a well-produced, professional recording drenched in reverb and deftly overdubbed, there was always a hint of an intangible chemistry underlying AJICO’s performance.

That chemistry comes to the forefront with AJICO Show, a two-CD live album.

Most of Fukamidori is represented on AJICO Show, but the album also includes a number of tunes from UA’s solo albums, one song from Asai Kenichi’s Blankey Jet City days and a cover of the jazz standard “Take Five”.

For the most part, Fukamidori was mostly a mellow affair, introspective and disturbingly quiet. AJICO Show, however, shows that UA, Asai bassist TOKIE and drummer Shiino Kyoichi can rock out.

After a somewhat slow start, the album takes off with the incredibly kinetic “Utsukushii Koto” and doesn’t let up.

Even when AJICO ventures into an incredibly haunting rendition of UA’s “Kanashimi Johnny”, the quartet hammers away with an energy only slightly hinted by Fukamidori.

In the best traditions of legendary live shows, AJICO manages to imbue its songs with alter egos. “Kin no Doro” was a genteel coupling track on the single for “Hadou”, but on AJICO Show, it becomes a hard if not bouncy rocker.

On “Kanashimi Johnny”, AJICO bring out a more unsettling somberness to an already sad song. On the original album, “Fukamidori” was a minimalist opener. On AJICO Show, it becomes one-part jam, one-part ballad for a total time of 10 minutes.

While “Pepin” may have been a great single for Blankey Jet City, it becomes a better duet with UA and Asai trading vocal calls and responses.

TOKIE is already an incredibly bass player, but with AJICO Show, it becomes clearly evidently just how intuitive she can be. She and drummer Shiino are locked in tight throughout the album, navigating through Asai’s thorny solos with ease.

But judging by the number of UA solo songs that appear on the album, it’s clear whose show this is. UA commands the music with an incredible presence. And when Asai’s Dylan-esque screech chimes in, the interplay is nothing short of electric.

AJICO Show shines a deserving spotlight on AJICO’s inherent collective talent. It’s a great document.