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Happy Family - Happy Family CD (album) cover

HAPPY FAMILY

Happy Family

 

Zeuhl

3.76 | 52 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars While the classic prog world of the 70s has been an infinite well-spring of inspiration for generations to come, it is always interesting when the newer bands latch onto the greats of the past and take their sounds somewhere nobody ever expected. Far away in an island country called Japan, far from the initial English scene that spread to the continent, prog admirers were taking a more extreme approach to the 70s scene. HAPPY FAMILY was one of many Japanese bands to take different strains of European prog and sew them together in unthinkable ways. This band formed all the way back in 1987 with the consistent lineup of Kenichi Morimoto (keyboards), Tatsuya Miyano (bass), Shige Makino (guitar) and Keiichi Nagase on drums after they met at the University of Tokyo. The band released two albums in the 90s and then out of the blue reunited for a third in 2014.

Their self-titled debut album shows the common love of Magma's zeuhl rhythmic drive similar to other Japanese bands such as Ruins and Bondage Fruit, however while those bands tended to embellish the zeuhl with their own zany antics, HAPPY FAMILY wasn't happy with the zeuhl influences alone. On their eponymous debut they decorate the zeuhl rhythms with the avant-prog Rock In Opposition sophistication of Univers Zero with outlandish complex time signature frenzies, the harshness of "Red" era (well other eras too actually) King Crimson guitar and bass bombast along with the jazz-fusion and funk influences of early Area that even includes a touch of the Balkan gypsy folk that made them sound so unique. While some influences dominate such as the Area ones on "Rock & Young" and the Crimson-esque approach on "Kalten (Ningen Gyorai)," often all of these elements play side by side in interlocking units of sonic complexity.

Musically HAPPY FAMILY churn out seven tracks that all stand out. Some are dark, some are cheery and some such as "Rolling The Law Court" have a cartoonish feel sometimes conjuring up a Danny Elfman "Simpsons" theme song type of vibe. The tracks are all instrumental and basically extended jams bloated with extreme physical workouts. The most ambitious track is the nineteen minute "Naked King" which perfectly demonstrates the Japanese stylistic fusion in full force. It is laced with eerily dark atmospheres, Crimsonian stomps of guitar power with zeuhl rhythms, jazz-fusion sensibilities and avant-prog jittery counterpoints that add a unique sense of Area's "Arbeit Macht Frei" idiosyncrasies to the mix. The track is off the charts heavy and unnerving but proceeds in a logical manner that delivers some of the coolest instrumental prog there is to be heard. Perhaps it dwells on a wee bit too long in full Crimsonian glory but i actually dig the ballsy gusto on display. The album ends with a macabre piano piece that quickly adds another layer of weirdness to the mix. HAPPY FAMILY put out an adventurous debut of complex prog. If that's your thang, do check this out.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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