Kiku Latte, formerly known as Cichla Temensis, hail from Japan, and take an instrument which appears quite often in progressive rock, the flute, and give it star billing. Whilst it is hard to imagine bands such as Jethro Tull or Focus without incorporating the flute, Kiku Latte simply wouldn’t exist without it.
Stories is the first full length album under this new name, and since their music is totally instrumental, the flute really is the voice of the band. I have to say that it is indeed an eloquent voice, singing in many tones and moods, and Kazumi Suzuki is a most accomplished player. The other musicians are no slouches either, all adding to a pleasing overall sound which tends towards the unplugged end of the spectrum, creating an organic, warm and natural style. The band alternate between reflective, almost whimsical moments of rare beauty, and more jagged progressive rocky excursions. Personally, I get more from the latter, but there is enough of each to give a satisfying balance to the album.
The reflective and more melodic side of the band is typified by songs like Blanketed in Morning Fog, or My Story. They are undeniably beautiful pieces, but absolutely need the contrasting more complex works such as Puppets or The Maze to prevent us slipping too far into a sentimental reverie. Puppets is, in fact, my favourite track here, incorporating so many twists and turns into its five or so minutes it sounds like a mini-epic, and is as close as they get to sounding like Tull. The bass and drums of Takumi Kokubu and Shingo Yoshida respectively energise the piece in a sprightly fashion, and Hiroyuki Kato is allowed a more prominent role on guitar. It is a superb and unpredictable track, and further explorations in this direction would be most worthwhile. The Maze is another great piece, with a strident flute melody with piano and guitar interjections, before giving way to a mid-section with a jazzy piano solo courtesy of keys man Yusuke Akiyama, playing over a busy rhythm section. Muzaki takes the jazz feel further, with funky bass and electric guitar, and has an almost Steely Dan feel which is a very welcome diversion.
The centrepiece of Stories is a ten-minute composition, The Encounter Suite, comprising four parts which are woven together into a continuous flowing journey. Here we move from the wistful to the rocky several times within the same track, and it works well. As a bonus on the CD version of the album, Kiku Latte cannot resist the temptation to cover Focus, with a sort of medieval minstrel arrangement of House of the King. It makes for a rather satisfying finish to an engaging album.
The concentration of a band on featuring one particular instrument has pros and cons. On the plus side, you have a readily recognisable identity, but on the other hand, future progression and diversification could suffer. I’d like to see them allow the other players a bit more room to explore and broaden their style, something they hint at in places, but for now, this is a good album which, with enough exposure, could gain them many new listeners.
01. Prologue (0:43)
02. Puppets (5:43)
03. Blanketed In Morning Fog (3:34)
04. The Maze (3:52)
05. My Story (2:17)
06. The Encounter Suite (10:38)
07. Astral Wind (4:31)
08. Turquoise Wind (4:13)
09. Muzaki (3:51)
10. House of the King [Focus cover] (3:17)
Total Time – 42:39
Kazumi Suzuki – Flute
Yusuke Akiyama – Keyboards
Takumi Kokubu – Bass
Shingo Yoshida – Drums
Hiroyuki Kato – Guitar, Violin
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Japan
Date of Release: 25th May 2021
Kiku Latte – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp