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HAPPY FAMILY

Zeuhl • Japan


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Happy Family biography
Fans of KING CRIMSON, UNIVERS ZERO and MAGMA, pay attention: HAPPY FAMILY* is one of the best bands currently happening in Japan right now. Furious riffing, noisy angular drumming, intense energy and top-notch musicianship is what they're about. Their guitar work is in the vein or Robert Fripp; the keyboards recall either UNIVERS ZERO or MAGMA (depending on what passages you're hearing); the fretless bass work will no doubt remind you of the MAGMA/Zeuhl fusion sound; and the drumming will instantly recall Bill Bruford or Daniel Denis of UNIVERS ZERO. Throw in a bit of heavy metal, some Japanese goofiness and you're in for quite a sonic ride.

Although they have released three cassettes in the early 90s (now out of print), the two following cd's are the only material available on the market: the eponymous "Happy Family" (95) and "Toscco" (97). The first features quirky and ultra-complicated themes and rhythms, yet the band never loses a step - even when they seem to get sloppy, it sounds deliberate and under control. On the grittier "Toscco" the band plays with more confidence still, although the music seems to have lost all traces of heavy metal (perhaps due to the presence of a new guitarist) and to concentrate on distilling the original aspects of the first album. Actually, hardly any traces of MAGMA or zeuhl remain on this one, replaced by a Zappa-like jazziness. This is amphetamine-driven music that demands your full attention. It takes a while to sink in but if you like being confounded by chaotic intensity, the trip is worth every penny you'll pay for these babies.

The first album is highly recommended to fans of KING CRIMSON, UNIVERS ZERO and MAGMA whereas the second is more likely to appeal to fans of TIPOGRAPHICA, DR. NERVE or IL BERLIONE.

* Not to be confused with another 'HAPPY FAMILY' of the late 80s.

: : : Lise (HIBOU), CANADA : : :

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TosccoToscco
Cuneiform 1997
Audio CD$34.99
$18.99 (used)
Happy FamilyHappy Family
Cuneiform 1995
Audio CD$12.58
$7.99 (used)
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HAPPY FAMILY discography


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HAPPY FAMILY top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.74 | 38 ratings
Happy Family
1995
3.92 | 103 ratings
Toscco
1997

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HAPPY FAMILY Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Toscco by HAPPY FAMILY album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.92 | 103 ratings

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Toscco
Happy Family Zeuhl

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The second album by Happy Family finds the band honing their Zeuhl style, and adding to their repertoire a substantial influence from the mid-1970s King Crimson circa Larks' Tongues In Aspic. This is, of course, not a combination which lacks precedent; back in the 1970s, Heldon produced albums which showed a very strong King Crimson influence and which at points leaned in a zeuhlish direction, and of course Happy Family's fellow Japanese zeuhl practitioners Bondage Fruit combined the two styles very successfully.

Too successfully for Happy Family's good, in fact - whilst this is an intriguing listen, I keep finding myself wanting to relisten to Bondage Fruit's second album when I listen to it, because that tended to be much more original and modern in its approach to melding the two styles. Still, this one's worth a go if you like this particular mashup.

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 Happy Family by HAPPY FAMILY album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.74 | 38 ratings

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Happy Family
Happy Family Zeuhl

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Happy Family's first album finds the four man set of Morimoto, Myano, Makino and Nagase jamming their little zeuhlish hearts out to produce intricate instrumentals of tangled-up RIO- flavoured music. The technical accomplishment and the sheer complexity on show is impressive, although personally I find that the album begins to suffer from a lack of variation in emotional tone or atmosphere - at plenty of points the band seem to be playing for playing's sake. There are, of course, plenty of people who find that to be more than enough - and such folk will probably dig this album a lot - but for me music needs some context, whether it's an emotion or a mood or a tone or an atmosphere or an idea or a story it wants to convey, in order to avoid degenerating into aimless noodling.

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 Toscco by HAPPY FAMILY album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.92 | 103 ratings

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Toscco
Happy Family Zeuhl

Review by toroddfuglesteg

4 stars The opening three minutes long opening track The Great Man gives the listener a forewarning of what to come. Then Happy Family fasten the grip and never let's go until the end of this album....... and long after the last tone has rung out.

Coming in somewhere in the Present landscape, me too slightly wonders about this band's inclusion in the Zeuhl genre. But I also understand why they are included. A song like Overdrive Locomotive is leaning very strongly towards Magma. As a conclusion, I would say Happy Family have one foot in Zeuhl and the other one in Avant-Garde/RIO. A great combination in my view.

The tempo varies between frantic and pretty lyrical and gloomy at times. Happy Family also owes a great deal to the likes of John Coltrane too. The music is also epic most of the time. Dare I say symphonic ? Happy Family and this album is surely the subject of lively debates for decades to come.

I do not the quality of the songs are up for debate though. The songs here never becomes uninteresting. There is always something going on. A jazzy snare drum, a rampaging bass, some funky guitars, some gloomy melody lines........ I can go on forever. There is a great deal of variations throughout the album. That makes this album a truly great album and one of the better RIO/Zeuhl albums I have ever heard. Excellent stuff.

4 stars

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 Toscco by HAPPY FAMILY album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.92 | 103 ratings

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Toscco
Happy Family Zeuhl

Review by Sinusoid
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The opener alone should be an indication as to how wonderful of an album you let yourself into. ''The Great Man'' has to be one of the best ideas laid to tape as the spectacular oboe-like melodies float over your head while the guitars go for the heavy. The rest of TOSCCO doesn't quite live up to the reputation of ''The Great Man'', but Happy Family tries.

Even if the whole of TOSCCO is very avant-garde, mushy and brutal, there always one little melody or line that will stick in your head for some time. The start-stop feel of ''He Is Coming at Tokyo Station'' lets you know the Zeuhl train has arrived and in brutal form. Follow that with ''Picture Book'' and it's funky synths and crashing, trashing metal later on, and you've got a winner. ''Overdrive Locomotive'' is as brutal as it implies, and the metal continues on ''Nord Company'' and ''Filial Piety'' with the latter opening on a memorable wah-guitar line.

Shame that the two longer tracks leave a lot to be desired. ''The Sushi Bar'' may not have bad manners or a bad face, but the taste of nearly twelve minutes isn't exactly pleasing even if the first notable melody is soothing. ''The Three Leaves Insect'' is very epic in nature, but it takes so long to get going that by the time we have gotten somewhere, I've lost interest. Thankfully, a reprise of ''The Great Man'' caps the album on a high note.

This is intense, brutal Zeuhl metal with the occasional foray into RIO, jazz and prog structures. Best yet, TOSCCO isn't a diarrhea mess of complexity even if the sounds make that implication. The description of the ''Toscco'' is quite interesting (see liner notes) even if I can't make heads or tails of it.

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 Toscco by HAPPY FAMILY album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.92 | 103 ratings

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Toscco
Happy Family Zeuhl

Review by Dobermensch

1 stars I was seriously disappointed with this album. It has a raw ugly sound to it and there are no vocals at all. I guess I was expecting something in the vein of the wonderful 'Koenjihyakkei'. Alas, the two bands are poles apart. Even the childish font on the front and back cover annoys me along with the 'baby' doodlings inside. You'd think that the addition of keyboards would smooth things out a little but they sound like a really cheap Yamaha I had in 1986 that played annoying artificial brass and trumpet sounds.

The appearance of a xylophone on 'The Sushi Bar' momentarily lifts my spirits but a few seconds later the frown appears on my forehead again. Grrr! I'm three quarters of way through this album and I can't wait for it to end. I'm just surprised to see that it has such a high score in the 'Archives' so I guess I must be the square peg in the round hole.

A very irritating experience and an album that has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I'm just surprised so many people like it. Oh - and another thing - it doesn't sound like Zeuhl either - just an un-coordinated din.

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 Happy Family by HAPPY FAMILY album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.74 | 38 ratings

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Happy Family
Happy Family Zeuhl

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Wow! Japanese usual psychedelic attack on your ears, but this time in very hard core form.

Debut (?) album of this Japanese band contains very explosive mix of angular King Crimsonian guitars, cold militaristic Magma drumming, some chamber RIO elements and freaky Zappa's atmosphere all mixed in one aural attack. Excellent musicianship technique, very calculated compositions. Dark, cold and totalitaristic sound, guitar soloing in this dark place and hammer-like drumming on the front of the sound mix. If you are familiar with less radical Japanese zeuhl bands, just add hard core (big doze) to their sound and you can imagine what is Happy Family.

One of excellent examples of Japanese psychedelic zeuhl with strong RIO flavour. Before listening just be sure you're ready this dark attack will destroy your mind though!

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 Happy Family by HAPPY FAMILY album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.74 | 38 ratings

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Happy Family
Happy Family Zeuhl

Review by 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.

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 Toscco by HAPPY FAMILY album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.92 | 103 ratings

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Toscco
Happy Family Zeuhl

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group Moderator / Psych / Avant / Neo Teams

4 stars Sorry HAPPY FAMILY but I've been impressed in depth and width of this album and made sure that they would be one of Japanese prides. But as honestly I say, in Japan very few people can find such a terrific Japanese progressive rock band...I'm so angry and hungry! :-)

An impression should come first off. The Great Man can move us with gentle flute solo and following heavy and thick sounds. Invited into a trip to Tosccorld by familial HAPPY FAMILY...we are ready. I cannot go to the next door without their refined sounds - not only the flute here but the rhythm section. A bit trailed drum and bass shots - these are some of the characteristics of this song I wanna say. This heavy rhythm section should be taken to the next step continuously, hear please. Suddenly your sound mind should be broken in pieces by speedy and improvised drumming and keyboard noises in Overdrive Locomotive . The title of this song is, I feel, well-expressed. The sounds can tell a steam locomotive with much smoke and steam go into overdrive and be close to an explosion. Effective electronic noises also smell terribly dangerous. They should seem never to do something difficult - on the contrary they can play, naturally and easily, such a complex tune. We should be all amazed. In the last part repetitive, psychedelic and spacey noises can make us full-stomach. Cannot help feeling their activity and aggression. I suggest this track strike our brain definitively. And impressive percussive kicks pulls a tab of a canned soda named Nord Company Vs. Lead Company - exploded gas should surge upon our bilateral ears and make terrible earache! Frozen outer sounds attack and take us to another dimension. Should our goal be the space (Nord) or the deep sea (Lead)? Really absorbing rhythm and air - into the tune itself we should go and be stretched. Can the height be lengthened hahhaha...? Next track Filial Piety At The Dawn has a funny synth sounds with heavy guitars. The musical style, most of Japanese basically are not good with, is their identity and very attractive to Japanese minority, of course including ME. :-) Various noises they can shoot like colourful arrows and all of them should hit us completely. The Sushi Bar is, as HAPPY FAMILY should be, one of Japanese prides but sadly in lots of nations it's not always good. Smelly fish, dry and hard rice, and high-handed atmosphere...a Japanese gentleman is upset and breaking, throwing all sushi in front of him! I always feel this song should say so. (No, wait, I wanna say that not all sushi bar out of Japan are disgusting. There are lots of great sushi bar all over the world.) Sorry back to the album discussion... also here are many, many dynamic sounds and noises. I'm sure such a heavy style (not only Kobaic one) should be their natural taste. Why is He Is Coming At Tokyo Station so unstable? Whether is unstable stuff, he or Tokyo? Indeed Tokyo is a large city and there are lots of monsters, but really is he a terrible monster? I feel as a Godzilla heavily steps on the ground of Tokyo, listening to the track. Following The Picture Book - X Rated has the same atmosphere - heavily striking rhythms and melodies. Even though everyone says the keyboardist or the guitarist should be terrific, I do say the drummer should be the most important! Takahiro Izutani's drumming is not only speedy and powerful but also strict and especially passionate. Furthermore, as I've mentioned above, he can play much naturally such a complex rhythm. Beyond expression! The Three Leaves Insect is absolutely the collection of all of HAPPY FAMILY, their wonderful ensemble. There are floating, streaming, waving, twisting, and attacking "TEMPUS FUGIT". I guess they can tell themselves all with the song. And the air flows slowly to the end... We can be very comfortable with such a polished play, can't we?

Again I say, why can't we find easily such a masterpiece?

P.S. This album was recommended to me by Mike Sharkey aka King By-Tor, in my PA newbie era. Thanks Mike!

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 Toscco by HAPPY FAMILY album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.92 | 103 ratings

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Toscco
Happy Family Zeuhl

Review by Shakespeare

4 stars Toscco is an extravagant display of ferocious complexity, oppressive power, and addictive motifs. It is complete with the brief splashes of beauty, worn in The Great Man, and scattered conservatively throughout the rest. These moments stand in stark contrast to the chief hyperactive and violently busy portion of the album. However, never does their coming seem abrupt or synthetically woven.

In a Zeuhl way, it often depends on rhythm, and in a Japa-Zeuhl way the extreme complexity and hyperactivity. But being entirely instrumental, it is often far from the genre of Zeuhl, and closer to modern avant-garde. In either catagory, it is a proud victory, borrowing influences from Magma, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, and perhaps even chamber-rock acts such as Univers Zero. A beautifully diverse array of textures, electronic and acoustic, increase the perfect of the vision. The blistering guitar/xylophone duet on top of a delicious drum/bass duel is a real highlight.

Often, the extreme complexity is just overwhelming. The compositions are so complicated that they just feel jagged. Picture something like John Cage's Sonatas & Interludes For Prepared Piano, but less dissonant, played by a full band, and that may describe songs like The Three Leaves Insect and He is Coming at Tokyo Station. Not always are the compositions so, though. When they are, they are normally countered with a simpler section to keep the balance.

Don't dismiss this album if you are no Magma fan. This is really a different Zeuhl than the fathers'. It is easiest recommended for fans of intense and intelligent heavy, noisy, maybe darker prog. It is a testament to potential of modern music, with slick sound production, phenomenal compositions, and a slightly metallic touch. Happy Family's Toscco is a masterpiece.

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 Happy Family by HAPPY FAMILY album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.74 | 38 ratings

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Happy Family
Happy Family Zeuhl

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I'm of the opinion that if you liked "Tossco" you need to get their debut. Get them both and be happy.

"Rock & Young" has a frantic intro of pounding drums and bass.The bass work is killer ! The background synths with the relentless drums create an interesting sound. Guitar arrives 2 minutes in and a couple of minutes later it sounds a little dissonant. The guitar is amazing ! The song ends in the same chaotic way as it began. "Shige Et Osanna" is dominated by drums and bass as organ and guitar come and go. This is another great song with a couple of different themes taking their turn in the spotlight. "Partei" is mellow to start out with keys and guitar. It starts to pick up though and we get a nice guitar melody as drums pound. It's even faster now as the song starts to change to more of a fusion sound. We're back to the original melody but with more bottom end and we're only half way through the song ! Some dissonant sounds 6 minutes in as the song continues to unfold.

"Rolling The Law Court" has a Zappa- like intro before the guitar comes in and grinds out some raw melodies. We get some good bass and drum lines as the Zappa-like horns come in as the guitar solos over top. This is great ! Very Zappa flavoured. "Kaiten(Ningen Gyorai)" is a heavy uptempo track with an amzing sound. More great bass, thunder from Japan ! "Naked King" is over 19 minutes long and begins with symphonic keys. I like it. A pounding beat follows and the song picks up the pace after 4 minutes. The bass rumbles 8 minutes in as we get a pulsating rhythm. The beat ends as various sounds crash in and out. A darker mood follows. 14 1/2 minutes in it's speeding up. The song brightens 17 minutes in to the end as the night is over. "Drums Whisper Spacey" is slowly played piano and what sounds like my dog (Dexter) making his squeeky squeek (a lot).

Essential Japanese heavy Zeuhl.

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