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Koenjihyakkei - Nivraym CD (album) cover





3.86 | 70 ratings

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4 stars Yoshida Tatsuya has never made any secret of his love for Zeuhl, and nowhere is this more obvious than on his work with Koenji Hyakkei, which he once said he intended to be the Japanese Magma. This album more than delivers on that promise, and is one of the most exciting and accessible projects he has ever been involved with.

Right from the outset this album will bring a smile to the face of any Zeuhl head - a bubbling bass line, nano second precise cymbal crashes and massed male and female vocals call to mind some of Magma's jazzier excursions, although on the title track there are a couple of diversions into Ruins style mayhem that Christian Vander would never include on a mainstream release. The vocals are in an invented language (not Kobaian, although it sounds similar) which further adds to the occasional feeling that this is an out take from a lost Magma session. This is not simply a rehashing of Magma's finest moments, however - there are enough original touches to let you know that Koenji Hyakkei are a band with their own ideas and agenda. Synthesisiers are used far more extensively than on most Magma releases, while the guitarst occasionally gets to cut loose with some downright dirty rock sounds where Vander (who often leaves guitar out altogether) would favour a cleaner, jazz oriented tone. More than anything else, what sets Koenji Hyakkei apart is their sheer sense of urgency. The longest track on this album, Lussesoggi Zomn, clocks in at just over 10 minutes, but feels like one of Magma's lengthier excursions compressed to about a quarter of its original length. They even manage to include an ever ascending scale ( a neat inversion of the ever descending scale in Kohntarkohsz). There's also a sense of fun (not humour, exactly, but the feeling that the musicians are cracking huge grins at each other as they trade lightspeed licks) that is often absent from the core Zeuhl acts.

This album is recommended to anyone into virtusoic playing and the wilder side of avant prog. The labyrinthine twists and turns, with sudden shifts in tempo and dynamics, will leave you slack jawed with astonishment, while any one of these 9 pieces will leave 2 or 3 fragments of melody reverberating around your skull for days after you've listened to it. This is by no means just for Zeuhl fans - open minded fans of just about any sub genre should find plenty to enjoy on here, between the highly symphonic keyboard sounds, the piledriving rhythms, the jazzy chord patterns and the general atmosphere of a group of highly skilled players doing exactly what they do best and loving every minute of it. Subarashii desu!

Syzygy | 4/5 |


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