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Koenjihyakkei - Hundred Sights Of Koenji CD (album) cover





3.86 | 77 ratings

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4 stars Rating: B+

Back in the 1970s, a band named Magma invented the genre of rock music known as zeuhl, which was never particularly popular but which inspired its fair share of followers (Weidorje, Archaia, Eider Stellaire, Eskaton, etc). None of those bands really expanded the zeuhl sound, however, preferring to stick closely to the Magma formula. None of them were clones, but neither were they particularly original. Enter Koenjihyakkei, led by Japanese madman Yoshida Tatsuya, who, like Magma mastermind Christian Vander, is drummer/singer/composer/frontman for his band. By merging classic Magma-inspired Zeuhl with punk and noise rock aesthetics, Konejihyakkei have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Zeuhl world, and probably the second biggest name in zeuhl, behind only Magma.

Koenjihyakkei have dubbed themselves "The Japanese Magma", and I'd like to clear up a few misconceptions about this tag. Koenjihyakkei is not a Magma clone by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, what the tag suggests is that Koenjihyakkei is re-inventing Zeuhl for the modern age (much as Magma invented it some thirty-five years ago). In that sense, they truly are the Japanese Magma. They are every bit as original, and pretty close to as good, with four excellent releases under their belt and (hopefully) more to come.

On their self-titled debut (Koenjihyakkei is Japanese for Hundred Sights of Koenji), Tatsuya and company have produced an undeniable Zeuhl classic, and their second best album to date (behind only their most recent, the ungodly Angherr Shisspa). It's less traditionally zeuhl than their other releases. While the openers "Loos" and "Doi Doi" are modern zeuhl classics, with the trademark pounding basslines, manic drumming, and choired vocals, by the end of "Doi Doi" it's clear this is no "lost Magma CD," as "Doi Doi" lets rip with a fantastic closing guitar solo that never would've appeared in a Magma piece. By the start of the third track, "Molavena", it's clear that Koenjihyakkei have plenty of their own ideas to bring to the table, incorporating elements of traditional Japanese music with a furious groove and more excellent vocals, which mix slow, elegant female vocals with swift, low, male intonations.

Hundred Sights of Koenji never loses steam from there. "Yagonnah" and "Avedumma" are the definite highlights of the latter half of the CD, mixing all the elements I mentioned above into the most potent, explosive pieces. "Yagonnah" in particular is a stellar mix to classic Zeuhl will traditional Japanese melodies (much like "Molavena", only better). None of the pieces can be ignored, however, as each is absolutely fantastic. Indeed, the biggest strength of Hundred Sights of Koenji is its consistency. Every track is at roughly the same level, and that level is fantastic. Magma may get the credit for inventing zeuhl (and they certainly deserve), but it would be unfair and unwise to consider them the only key zeuhl band. After all, there's Koenjihyakkei.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |


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