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Happy Family - Toscco CD (album) cover


Happy Family



3.87 | 118 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars Happy Family had existed for quite a while before they actually release proper Cd releases: apparently three self-made cassettes were sold at their concerts. By the time that their eponymous debut album was released, HP was heavily into a weird Crimsonian Zeuhl music (as if Fripp was had cross-pollinated with UZ and Vander's bunch in a metal container), and while fairly different, Toscco is the logical continuation of their first utterances, but it is much more mastered in its own art.

If possible I'd like to override my young reviewing colleagues Miracle/Ansen and IPOF, as maybe they have not fully grasped all the facets of Zeuhl, but Toscco is definitely a full-blown Zeuhl album (and a dynamite one too), even if the metal tendencies of the previous album are again "interfering" (for lack of a better word) with the genre's more recognizable traits. If HP does not sound like Magma much, they certainly sound a lot more like Univers Zero, Present and carry a lot of darkness of Island (the Swiss group), while their hi-energy RIO side of their music is also another dominant facet of their sound.

Starting on the calm clarinet-driven intro of Great Man, the album is mostly based on the longer tracks such as Nord Company, Sushi Bar (with its excellent clunky piano intro before exploding into a wild rrriff series before returning to the clunky piano) and Three Leaves Insect, where the group is most at ease developing Present-like grooves (the piano is so reminiscent of Trigaux's lines >> even if he didn't play them in his group, he still wrote them), while the relentless drumming is cross of Bruford and Daniel Denis, but also Dave Kerman (again Present). The shorter pieces are not to be overlooked, though: Picture Book (with a King Crimson crescendo ala Starless), Locomotive (with its incessant Present groove constantly interrupted by the piano breaks) and Tokyo Station (with its almost macabre middle section) are the legs and arms of the album on which is stands on and offers you what 90's prog has done best: intense power prog music.

Happy Family might just rank as my fave group from Japan along with Stomu Yamashta and the Far East Family Band, even if those two are more into cosmic music. Possibly on of the best mid-90's album, Toscco is for me almost essential (actually it is fully essential, but unfortunately, it is a little lost in the last decade's production of myriad of such album, a good deal of them on their own label, the great Cuneiform) but slightly too derivative of Present: this is maybe its only "flaw" if it can be seen as one.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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