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NIVRAYM

Koenjihyakkei

Zeuhl


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Steve Hegede
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Shit, this is a CD that grabs you by the balls and doesn't let go. For those of you who are not familiar with these guys, KOENJI HYAKKEI is the Zeuhl-obsessed side-project from RUINS drummer Tatsuya Yoshida. His main source of inspiration is the French group MAGMA, but Tatsuya takes those MAGMA influences to the edges of insanity. Add to that the frenzied bass and synth work from France's ESKATON, and the vocal weirdness from Italy's AREA, and you're in for some crazed prog rock.

The energy level throughout the CD doesn't slow down for a minute as you ears get blasted by Kobaian-like chanting, sections galore of maniac yet cartoonish guitar/synth/bass work, and rhythms that change almost every 4-8 measures. The second track "Becttem Pollt" has got to be one of the best prog rock compositions of the past decade. The instrumental section in the middle is so intense, and proggy, that you might even have to stop the CD to catch your breath. The one problem that I had with the last KOENJI HYAKKEI album, Viva Koenji!, was that, after the first track, the rest of the music really wasn't that memorable. Well, NIVRAYM, I'm happy to report, is not only more complex than its predecessor but is catchy from beginning to end. I can't find a weak track here. Overall, if you're into RIO, Zeuhl, avant-garde prog you definitely have to check this CD out.

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Send comments to Steve Hegede (BETA) | Report this review (#31860)
Posted Saturday, July 31, 2004 | Review Permalink
Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
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!

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#49768)
Posted Sunday, October 02, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the most "acessible" of the three first studio albums from Koenji Hyakkei. The use of keyboards is very clever and puts this band in another plane, not a simple "Magma meets godzilla" cover band. Heavy riffs from the guitar put Koenji Hyakkei in touch with modern trends in the avant-garde "pop" music. But we can't forget that anyone who has ever listened to Magma can identify almost instantly the band that is the major inspiration from this nipponic outfit. Is this a negative point? Well, Koenji Hyakkei really tries to put more heavinees and to develop Magma's frenetic sound. Although Koenji Hyakkei can be considered heavier than Magma (thanks more to the keys - Moogs and all - than to the guitar) I don't feel that their sound is "dark", if you understand this word by the feeling of opression and angst caused by Magma's great works. All in all, I consider that Koenji Hyakkei was one of my great discoveries of his year, but can't hail them to the level of the ultimate zehul experience - Magma.

I would give 3,75 stars in Koenji Hyakkei's own album's scale (the better I heard being "2", followed closely by "Hundred sights of Koenji"). In general scale it deserves 3,5 stars, but I'll give 4 because it is really a "excellent addition to any prog music colletion". But don't mix the good disciple with the master!

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Send comments to moodyxadi (BETA) | Report this review (#138878)
Posted Monday, September 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 3.5 stars.The way this album ends from tracks six through 9 is incredible. They have a guest keyboard player (Oguchi Kenichi) who plays for KENSO and also played on Yoshida's other band RUINS "Symphonica" record. A female soprano vocalist has been added as well.

"Nivraym" features tribal-like drumming with guitar and vocals. Half way through the vocals get a little crazy and the sounds get dissonant before returning to the original sound. Great opening song. "Becttem Pollt" has uptempo instrumental sections, while the vocals range from slow to fast. This song is often chaotic. "Lussesoggi Zomn" is the first song with the soprano female vocals as they join the piano to begin with before a full sound comes in. This contrast continues. We get some organ 2 minutes in and I really like the instrumental passage after 5 minutes. The song ends as it began. This is the best song so far. "Vissqauell" is an uptempo track with guitar and lots of drums and vocals. The vocals can be a little tough to listen to at times on this one.

"Mederro Passquirr" has a great rhythm to it as male vocals and pounding drums arrive a minute in. Female soprano vocals come in 2 1/2 minutes in and she can really let it rip. Good song although the vocals are again challenging. "Axall Hasck" has some fantastic instrumental music on it. The bass, guitar and drums shine. Female vocals arrive 1 1/2 minutes in. The bass and female vocals in particular are outstanding. "Maschtervoz" opens with spoken words and gentle guitar that are blown out by a heavy soundscape including vocals. This contrast continues. We get some Vander-like vocals with some excellent guitar to follow. "Gassttrumm" features some heavy, dark sounds including deeper vocals that work great with the high pitch female vocals. Some nice keyboard work followed by guitar that signals a change as it slows right down. Vibraphone comes in and powerful drums as pace picks back up. "Vallczeremdoss" builds as guitar and drums are prominant early before bass and vocals take the spotlight.

I have never been a big fan of frantic, chaotic music no matter how well it is played. Great way to end the album though.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#144924)
Posted Monday, October 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
DamoXt7942
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Moderator / Psych / Avant / Neo Teams
4 stars A beautiful outer world.

Forgive me but this is my first KOENJIHYAKKEI's album. And besides, I've listened only to Üdü Wüdü by MAGMA about Zeuhl music. As honestly I say, a few years ago I couldn't understand Magma and Zeuhl scene. Surprisingly KOENJIHYAKKEI, with a heavier style than Magma (IMHO), could let me know a brilliant view about Zeuhl. As I've expressed as an outer world, this scene seems to be an outside one or fantasia. Please don't misunderstand me, and let me say I could go on a trip for one of fantastic lands, named Koenji Temple. Like Magma, in KOENJIHYAKKEI two female vocalists (in this album) should be important and impressive. Highly pitched voices by them are the shining star for this work...of course then, all members' voice are well-balanced. Well I wanna say...the important point should be their strict and sharp-edged rhythm section, especially Tatsuya Yoshida's drumming. Otherwise they would be an eccentric chorus group. :-)

In this 2009 NIVRAYM are three additional players, Keiko Komori (soprano sax, bass clarinet), Taku Yabuki (keyboards), AH (vocals). In the first track, in particular, NIVRAYM Keiko's clarinet can bloom out flashily and brilliantly over remarkably complex beats. AH's voice can make all songs more massive and more gorgeous I suggest.

I apologize to you all that I've not listened to previous (original) edition yet and cannot compare (in near future I'll do absolutely!), but now I guess the current edition would get heavier and crazier than the original one.

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Send comments to DamoXt7942 (BETA) | Report this review (#219219)
Posted Monday, June 01, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another amazing album of this Japanese band. Is my last aquisition and I heard some tracks in live concert in Gouveia festival. Very strong ritm and another work that Zheul go to limit of insane but we can see some Magma parts in this work. Female voice not so classic that other albuns but very good performance. Great keyboard, bass and drum's work. Absolutely Zheul my friends and the music context chage very fast that made a special atention to all that listen this music. I like very much this album. Some parts litle calm and that change to very powerfull parts, full of emotion. To all fans that like Zheul, love this band. I give 5 stars for this amazing work. Thak you Koenjji

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Send comments to João Paulo (BETA) | Report this review (#243644)
Posted Thursday, October 08, 2009 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I came into this album after hearing ANGHERR SHISSPA first. I was amused at the (slightly) more accessible tone of the music and various RIO moments in the songs; those that travel in the other direction will wonder where the guitars went and where the fusion elements came in.

Koenjihyakkei is a band that is not easy to get into; I remember spouting on my ANGHERR SHISSPA review of how this album should be the first Koenjihyakkei one acquire should you be interested in the band. If you don't have much affinity for fusion, then that could be true. However, one must have a little leniency towards some avant-garde things; otherwise the effort is futile.

This band can be a novelty of sorts; in fact, after about a year of intense listening, I feel that the novelty of NIVRAYM has somewhat worn out. There's only so much crazy riffing, superfluous keyboard lines, over-the-top drumming, furious polyrhythms and bizarre words that I can take. Hearing the first two Koenjihyakkei albums after this put this point in perspective; NIVRAYM introduces little new things into the Koenjihyakkei sound.

There are some ''classics'' here that are worth listening to like the title track, ''Axall Hasck'', ''Vallczeremdoss'' and ''Lussesoggi Zomn''. It's still great for a Koenjihyakkei introduction, but once other albums enter the library, NIVRAYM is nothing more than a backburner album, even if it's still awesome.

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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#262036)
Posted Friday, January 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Crumbs almighty! How do you review an album like this? Things begin with vocals that seem totally out of synch with the instrumental parts - and you're left thinking - was that deliberate...? Koenjihyakkei's third album is another triumph, but beware all you Zeuhl fans - it's really heavy going and full in your face. Thankfully there's a lot of playfulness involved due to the presence of female voices but it still sounds totally crazed. Very similar to the follow up 'Ni' but not quite so deranged. I can't help thinking that this is how a Japanese 'Laibach' would have sounded if they let themselves go. I can't imagine many folk liking this due to its sheer intensity, but I love it! Most listeners will have to be in a particular frame of mind before hearing this recording as it's a full on experience. Personally I love this kind of madness and it makes me feel happy, so there!

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Send comments to Dobermensch (BETA) | Report this review (#296407)
Posted Friday, August 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
TheGazzardian
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars There are two versions of Nivraym, the original release and a 2009 re-release with some additions made. The version I have and am basing this review on is the 2009 release.

This, my friends, is Zeuhl on caffeine. The genre has always been a bit out there, but Koenjihyakkei have blended with it a bit of punk energy, leading to loud, fast, energetic compositions. The aural palate here is varied, but drummer and mastermind Tatsuya Yoshida's drumming is one of the highlights. His drumming is chaotic, yet it is the backbone of the music and what holds it all together. I said it in my review of "Angherr Shispa" and I'll say it again; this band has mastered "controlled chaos". And Yoshida's drumming is the chaos in control.

At the forefront of the music, we have the vocals, which are in typical Zeuhl fashion operatic, dramatic, and very often repetitive. The language is made up so don't try and figure out what they're saying. This album has a lot of very gifted vocalists, both female and male with very powerful voices, which is good because if they were not strong singers their voices would be lost under the rest of the instruments, with the drums, keys, guitars and reeds bouncing from melody to melody.

And that's one of the crazy things, is that despite all the noise in it, this music is actually at it's root melodic. It's complex, and there's a lot of different things going on at once, but the melodies are what make this music so listenable. That, and the drama created by the stark shifts in speed/intensity. There is also a level of beauty to how the music leads the listener forward; the music is a maze that feels like a straight path. (Well, once you get a grasp on it, that is - be prepared to give this a few listens first!)

This is my second Koenjihyakkei album, the first being Angherr Shispa, and I must admit that the two are very similar. At this point in their career, Koenjihyakkei have their sound pretty well figured out. In terms of quality, the two are pretty close as well. The only flaw with this one I would say is that the squealy saxophones are not used as well as they are in the follow-up; here, they seem to go against the flow of the music a bit more than in Angherr Shispa, where they are more tightly integrated. But this is only apparent in one or two places on the album.

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Send comments to TheGazzardian (BETA) | Report this review (#439787)
Posted Wednesday, April 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Koenjihyakkei follow up the marvellous Viva Koenji! with yet another slice of hyperactive zeuhl fusion. This time around, I can't say it measures up to its predecessor - on my copy, at least, the sound quality is rather muzzy and murky, and whilst I suppose this might be a deliberate aesthetic decision on the band's part it seems more like a genuine mistake. Despite this mild setback, the band continue to impress both with their technical ability and their sheer audacity, and few other groups can seem so in control in the midst of utter chaos as Koenji. Three and a half stars.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#643431)
Posted Thursday, March 01, 2012 | Review Permalink

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