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Koenjihyakkei - Angherr Shisspa CD (album) cover





3.94 | 132 ratings

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3 stars If this is your first exposure to the controlled mayhem of Koenjihyakkei, brace yourself. Progressive rock doesn't often cut this close to the jugular vein, or do so with such dispassionate madness. Imagine a serial rampage by an Asian Jack the Ripper, with a surgical degree to match his mental instability. Now put that image to music, and turn up the volume.

Christian Vander's MAGMA is the obvious inspiration, right down to the arcane invented vocabulary. But the Japanese translation was made with a near-lethal jolt of added voltage: lightning-fast RIO phrases, repeated and swapped for the next one on a never ending musical treadmill, all with crazed operatic vocalizing (not singing) and pinpoint instrumental virtuosity. The entire assembly was then set to the cadence and rhythm of a Dr. Seuss story as imagined under the influence of acid, amphetamines, and a red-hot cattle prod up the stern.

The effect is equally amazing and irritating, usually at the same time. The collective rigor, stamina, and mathematical precision of the quintet can be awe-inspiring, but the effort also leaches much of the life out of the music. There's something cold, almost mechanical, in the band's affectionate embezzlement of the classic Magma style, at times reducing it to an academic exercise in dot-to-dot Zeuhl tracery: the Prog Rock equivalent of Andy Warhol's soup can reproductions. A couple of flubs might have warmed the music up, and made it a little more human.

On the other side of the coin: secondhand weirdness can sometimes be even more attractively weird than the original. That's a good thing for those of us who enjoy a musical challenge, and here's an album that certainly qualifies: a musical double-dare to meet at your own peril.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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