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HAPPY FAMILY

Happy Family

 

Zeuhl

3.77 | 38 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Happy Family's debut album is an accurate example of the way that the Japanese contemporary progressive scene recaptured and revitalized the Zeuhl monster in order to keep it breathing all the way through the 90s and 00s: "Happy Family" is not only a catalogue, but it is also a paradigm of how you can maintain and nurture the spirit of avant- garde in the present times by providing it with an extraordinary use of abundant doses of stamina and electricity. Of course, the talent at writing material, the skill at playing in interaction with your partners and the passion to make it work beyond the inherent intellectual drive are also items of great importance when it comes to making good experimental rock, and the foursome of Happy Family are pretty much gifted on these three departments. It is a pity that this one and "Toscco" would eventually be their only inputs to the international prog scenario, but it is also true that the spectacular greatness of both items amply compensates for their brevity. Well, it now our time to review their debut album, originally released in 1995. The aptly titled 'Rock & Young' kicks off the album in a delightful mixture of trepidation and frenzy that is robustly designed around the implacable rhythmic scheme. These HP guys really anticipated the sort of avant-prog for the 00s that acts like Guapo and Nebelnest would later grace our ears with, but yet the HP guys seemed to have drunk 2-3 Redbull bottles and spent a couple of hours under "Clockwork Orange"-style torture. Those who got acquainted with this band in proper time must have had a trauma or a revelation, no in between. 'Shige Et Osanna' follows on a similarly intense note, but this time the urgency is less prominent and the rhythm duo's swing is more elaborated. The guitar parts are more Crimsonian, indeed, and so are the bass lines (Wetton would have loved to come up with them during his glorious 72-74 tenure in the band of Fripp & co.). This piece is, to say it in one word, jazz-oriented, and so the next one 'Partei' is more deeply jazzy. This one might as well be described as a hybrid of Present and Kenso, with an extra touch of the frenetic dynamics that HP is so well known for. 'Rolling the Law Court' takes the recurrent neurosis to a more playful level, somehow emulating the Dadaistic cynicism of Zappa, plus refined flavors of standard 90s jazz-rock. By now, you can tell that these guys are not only about progressive madness, but they are also capable of instilling passages and arrangements where control is the key among the overall extroverted framework. For the elaboration of 'Kaiten (Ningen Gyorai)', the band decides to take one step back from the stylish refinement present in the preceding 2 tracks and goes for an approach closer to heavy prog, partially leaning toward the Crimsonian standard and adding raw jazz-friendly textures a-la Xaal. The magnificent guitar lead provided by Shigeru Makino rounds liek a simultaneosu homage to Messrs. Fripp and Vai, while the synth solo that follows sounds like a creepy reconstruction of vintage Jan Hammer. Now that I think about it, this track is also very refined, only with a more abundant muscular element set as the nucleus for the instrumental developments. With its 19 minute span, 'Naked King' works as the album's definitive climax. Its slow, majestic intro theme soon leads us to the main body, properly syncopated through a creepy atmosphere ? very much a Francophone RIO thing (Univers Zero, Vortex, Present, you know?). On the other hand, it is also fair not to forget that HP adds its own colorfulness to this progressive thread, and this is particularly true concerning the dynamics utilized for this piece's development. Images of solemnity and decadence are conjured by the integral sonic framework as the first climax shifts toward an explorative improvisational section that enhances the running creepiness. Once the climax returns in a proactive manner, the neurosis returns to its original intensity until the grayish intro theme returns for the coda. After this incredible journey of magnificence and darkness, the brief piano solo entitled 'Drums Whisper Spacy' closes down the album with an aura of crepuscular quietness. What a way to build up an explosion and then a calm closure as the album's finalization! What an album! Enough said, 5 stars, Happy Family has to be dearly missed, please tell all new prog fans about them.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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