Released: May 27, 2009
By: Jeff Han
California based On Ensemble are a band formed by their love of the ancient Japanese instrument, taiko. Ume in the Middle is the band's third album and their website self-describes the record as "a unique combination of taiko, hip-hop, overtone singing, rock and electronica." Although within this exact filing "unique" is most likely true; building a sound with the intent purpose of combining traditional and modern styles is something that has been done ad nauseam before. Regardless, the apical flaw with this intent is that several songs like "Hiroya vs. Miniboss" and the awkward mess "Waiting" (with their excessive DJ scratching and Aphex Twin style snare beat assaults) sound more at home with the "modern" music of 1999 than 2009. The latter half of the record does manage to redeem itself though. Far from the contrived mess of the earlier tracks, "After Rain" (the album's best track) and "Silverback" are the most organic couplings of the band's traditional and modern sounds and best represent the group's potential. On Ensemble are a crew with a clear amount of talent that, unfortunately, is overshadowed by the band's missteps and misdirections.