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Image © 2000 Pacific Garden (Japan)

Eri Sugai
Eri Sugai (Vocals)
Image © 2000
photo courtesy Narumi Arai

(09 December 2000) Kazumasa Yoshioka and Eri Sugai co-produced the album Air (Pacific Garden (Japan) CHCB-30003), 2000) under the monniker Stella Mirus. Eri told us, "this is not an Asian-style CD, I made it by order to make classic music by Mr Yoshioka. That is my style too." Enthusiasts of music by Miriam Stockley, Enya, Adiemus and Eri Sugai's album Mai (review) are certain to enjoy this album as well. One track is even reminscent of work by the legendary Julee Cruise.

Eri Sugai has created stunning vocal arrangements that perfectly compliment her crystalline voice for the album's nine tracks, of which five trace back to classical pieces by Bach, Satie, Beethoven Faure and Mussorgsky. We were instantly reminded of Adiemus, Enya and Annie Haslam's Still Live from first listen. The album opens with it's title track "Air" derived from a piece by Bach. Gently flowing vocal layers are supported by light keyboard accompaniment.

Sugai's lovely interpretation of Erik Satie's classic "Gymnopedie No. 1" is almost entirely vocalise—the keyboard is especially light and perfectly compliments her voice. Annie Haslam's "Shine" on her 1985 Still Life is an interesting lyrical alternative and worth a journey for interested readers. Eri Sugai's vocal arrangement of "Sonata for Klavier Nr. 14" (Beethoven) is most reminiscent of the whispy style of Julee Cruise and is accompanied by Yoshioka's lovely keyboard-created string part.

By stark contrast to the classically derived numbers on the album is a certain favourite to Enya's fans called "In Your Arms." String passages, vocal arrangements, keyboards and the song structure itself creates an instant allusion to Enya's latest album A Day Without Rain (review). "Aquamarin" is an atmospheric number, with both evocative vocals and rapid range traversing keyboard excursions, is equally reminiscent of Enya's work. The similarities are lovely and Eri Sugai's voice suits the style extremely well.

Eri Sugai's crystalline vocal ability shines through in the a capella arrangements of "Stella." Harmony layers support the lead vocal layers and create a stunning accompaniment during the piece performed very much in the style created on her Mai album. The style continues into the introduction to the artists' interpretation of Faure's "Siciliania-Pel Leas Et Melisande Op. 80." Keyboards join and support the lead and backing harmonies as the almost epic length track develops. The album's final classical re-arrangement begins with a lovely multi-tracked a capella rendition of a portion of Mussogsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Midway through the track the vocals quickly pick up pace and additional layers and orchestral instantly recognisable as an Adiemus style emerge.

Styles blend in the album's closing epic "Silent Love." The keyboard arrangement is especially notable and full of classically derived allusions. Within the vocal passages, listeners will hear styles made famous by Enya, Julee Cruise, a bit of Adiemus and the blend will leave a lovely impression of this tremendous album. Clearly Eri Sugai is a stunning vocal talent and one that we hope to hear a lot more of in the coming months and years. There are four lovely soundbites at the label's website (click on album cover to enter). Air is worth extensive exploration and worthy of a trans-Atlantic (or trans-Pacific) journey, it is certainly a must listen! Available exclusively as an import, order your copy today.

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