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Koenjihyakkei - Angherr Shisspa CD (album) cover





3.93 | 130 ratings

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4 stars Well now I can say I’ve properly explored a Zeuhl album. So that's that. Interesting to say the least. I’ve been meaning to seek out something in the Zeuhl world for quite a while, and although I have heard several Magma albums from the seventies (most notably ‘Üdü Wüdü’), I’ve never actually set down and actively listened to an entire album, and in this case – several times. I have to say that I find Koenjihyakkei much more approachable than anything I’ve heard from Magma, or at least as approachable as anything in this genre can possibly be.

And after hearing this I find myself now wondering what the connections are between some of the weirder RIO bands like Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and their ilk, and Zeuhl. I guess one has to be a serious student of music to understand, which of course I’m not. Just a fan with too much discretionary time.

Vocals are the dominant instruments here, with everyone getting in their chops, but all of them overshadowed by the soaring and angelic (though usually strident) vocals of Yamamoto Kyoko. Like the other Zeuhl records I’ve heard the drums are all over the place, and trying to discern the timing is both futile and unnecessary. Rhythm per se does not seem to be a priority for this type of music. The brass is cacophonic and shrill at first, but after a while it starts to become more comfortable to the ear and a somewhat logical pattern begins to emerge. I have to say that if I had heard this album or anything like it twenty or thirty years ago I would have kept moving and not made eye contact. But with time and age comes a more tolerant attitude toward the unfamiliar, and in this case that’s a good thing. Henry Cow was about as far as I strayed from palatable music up to the past few years, so the timing of this release worked well for me. Not that anyone cares about that but me – I just thought I’d mention it.

The album starts off with plenty of towering vocal bellowing that captures one’s attention but can be a bit disconcerting if you’re not expecting it. By around the middle of the album (“Fettim Paillu” to be exact), the lyrical gibberish and deadly brass seems to become a bit more focused, and all throughout the piano is the one stabilizing bit of instrumentation while the rest of the music seems barely restrained for the most part.

I won’t try and dissect this thing down to its basic elements, mostly because I don’t have the technical knowledge to do so. Suffice to say that if you haven’t tried Zeuhl before, this seems to be a bit more accessible than a lot of the heavier, primal and more foreboding stuff like Magma and Ruins that I’ve heard before. The piano and clarinet give this a lighter feel, and the Japanese female vocalists can’t really pull off dirge-like vocals, so it’s a good thing they don’t try.

Tough to assign a rating to something when I have so little to compare it to, so I’m going to break with my usual standards and just say this is a four star effort. I have no doubt I’ll revisit that once I have a better understanding of Zuehl music and have had a chance to compare it to some of the more established standards, but for now I’m intrigued by the vocals, interested in the various keyboard repetitions, and not at all put off by the comparatively bizarre arrangements. So that’s probably a good thing. If you’re a Zeuhl fan you probably already have this since it appears to be a well-known record of that genre. If you don’t then you are probably a neophyte like me, in which case try your luck but don’t put much stock in my opinion – I really don’t know enough to make an objective judgment.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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