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ZYPRESSEN

RIO/Avant-Prog • Japan


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Zypressen biography
Zypressen is/was a Japanese chamber music quintet with ties to fellow countrymen Lacrymosa. Their music is more in the lighter side of things and they can be compared at times to Univers Zero (not to say they sound like them, but as a point of reference) and it slides into Zeuhl territories at times. While the lineup consists of an electric guitar, drums & percussions, the dominant instruments in their tracks are the classical instruments such as cello, violin viola, piano, flute and clarinet. Their s/t album from 1996 is hard to track and supposed to be out of print, but can found occasionally at online stores or auctions. In any case, well worth the trouble of locating it, as the album manages to keep a good flow of interchanging sounds/themes and electric vs. acoustic tracks.

==Assaf Vestin (avestin)==





Discography:
Zypressen, studio album (1996)

Zypressen official website

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3.85 | 21 ratings
Zypressen
1996

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ZYPRESSEN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Zypressen by ZYPRESSEN album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.85 | 21 ratings

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Zypressen
Zypressen RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'Zypressen' - Zypressen (63/100)

Halfway into my first listen of Zypressen's self-titled (and only) album, I was left with the impression that the band's drummer must have the title of 'easiest job in the world'. It took a quick glance at the band members and their respective instruments to see the folly in that statement. Hirofumi Imai is listed as Zypressen's drummer, but he also takes charge of the marimba, xylophone, glockenspeil and 'wind synthesizer'. Add to that the example of a bassist who moonlights as the band's cellist/violinist, and you might get a better idea that Zypressen are miles from ever taking the 'easy' route in their music.

Although their layered arrangements and forays with atonalism convey their avant-prog influences, Zypressen is firmly rooted in chamber rock, the particular likes of which Univers Zero might undoubtedly stand as the flagship for. In the case of Zypressen (released in 1996, now something of a hidden gem amongst chamber/avant nerds), think of what the lighter side of Univers Zero might have sounded like, had it been influenced directly by the darker side of Univers Zero. There's no doubts that Zypressen is a weird and challenging album in parts (especially for those to whom 'chamber rock' may be an alien term) but the essence of their music is soft and listenable.

Zypressen's arrangements are nuanced and far more complex than the generally light tone of the album would suggest. At their best, Zypressen function in unison and without any sign of ego or individual motivations; it's really as if the music has been composed from a bird's eye view; none of the instruments are more than brushstrokes in of themselves- everything is conceived as a part of the whole. This gestalt approach to performance is a far cry from the egotism of rock (progressive rock included) but it's right at home with chamber musical tradition, which tends to pride itself on placing the whole before its parts.

With that context in mind, it's a bit of an irony that the composed parts of Zypressen come together only loosely. There are some individually excellent musical concepts to emerge here (just hear some of the explorations in "STR (Against the Wind)" to see my point) but there's very little of the adhesive Zypressen would have needed to give them the structural coherence their promising arrangements probably deserved.

Based on some of the track name extensions here ("Tangent", for instance, is denoted here as a 'new version') I get the sense that there is a side of Zypressen's career that we're not seeing here. Where are the old versions, the old mixes that this self-titled is building upon? I think some much-needed context and history would help put the album's strengths (and, more head-scratchingly: its weaknesses) in perspective. For a style and approach that obviously prides itself on the merits of composition above all else, it is puzzling that Zypressen do not manage to bind their art with a more satisfying structure. The beautifully written tripartite suite at album's end proves to be an exception to the rule (drawing chamber classical and jazz together in a fit of Third Stream brilliance) but even then, it does not feel like the band has properly managed to get their riffs to fit together.

That the band's sense of composition is so unfocused is a shame, really. A lot of the ideas here are pretty amazing, and surely deserved more than the structural mess that was afforded to them.

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 Zypressen by ZYPRESSEN album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.85 | 21 ratings

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Zypressen
Zypressen RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Lear'sFool

5 stars A tame but beautiful piece of chamber rock. Rather than the usual avant-prog strategies of crazed ideas, Byzantine complexity, barrier crushing in regards to genre, or sheer randomness, Zypressen just played some outstanding chamber music informed by RIO and rock. So not groundbreaking, but still fantastic, and unique in its comparative simplicity and ease of performance. The first three tracks flow wonderfully together as they explore the calm niche the band set for themselves. A lot of strings, drums, and percussion create an enjoyable and slightly avant garde sound. The band remains a bit unpredictable even here, first with unexpected turns, and then eventually on the third track, "Tangent", the band also pulls a bit of electronic out to surprise and add to the mix. "Etdue" adds the rock in earnest, and the sound all comes together. "HANA" also stands as an excellent track, with chimes that sound pretty and may become as stuck in your mind as they are in mine, since a childhood when it was used as a sound effect, no less. While not as in the clouds as the other great avant-prog opuses, it works more than enough and holds considerable beauty and interest.

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 Zypressen by ZYPRESSEN album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.85 | 21 ratings

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Zypressen
Zypressen RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by avestin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Diversity - is too much good or bad?

Having seen this album for sale on the Wayside website saying it is a fine chamber-rock release and since it's out of print there will be no re-stocking of it, I asked my friends from the ZART if I should get it and Claire (Listennow801) told me that I will most certainly like it. What do you know, she was right! Thanks, Claire.

A look at the lineup and instruments lets you know that indeed this is something special as aside from the rock instruments, there are others such as marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, flute, violin, viola, cell and piano. In the booklet there are liner notes in Japanese by a member of Lacrymosa, the band's "relatives", however those are in Japanese and so I can't understand a thing, which is too bad as it could have shed some light on this relatively unknown band.

Like I wrote in their bio here in PA, early Univers Zero might be point of reference, but not exactly sound-alike and they are not as dark sounding. They do reside in the chamber music/rock and also draw influence from Zeuhl (Point Of Compass). I will mention other bands further on in the review.

In their music they have a main theme around which they revolve, coming up with other developments of it as the track goes, then changing again to another route but they will not stay away from the main theme too long or drift away. They stick to it, develop ideas that come from it and in general remain "loyal" to that initiating melody.

They have tracks in which they sound denser, harsh and severe, emphasized by the bass and drums (again Point Of Compass is a good example). In others yet, they sound not as heavy feeling (as in STR (Against The Wind)) where the string instruments lead the way giving the music its lighter feel.

They also show a penchant for the more uplifting side of music, as can be heard in the relatively (to this album) happy sounding Tangent, where the percussions add to the jolliness (not to be mistaken with silliness as they never do that; it's just a more good spirit feel).

With Etude it seems we have switched to a RIO attitude, with the guitars playing semi-nervous tones backed by well played percussions. It goes on further leaving that guitar-lead RIO sound for a short time to give the wind-keyboards the lead returning only to combine the tunes these two parts made. This track contrasts the uplifting atmosphere left by the previous one, with its somber and tense feeling. This track brought to my mind the 5UU's for some reason.

Hana continues the style of Tangent, with its melodious rather cheerful (or perhaps optimistic sounding is a better description) tune and the lead string instruments. Hana has a wonderful and fabulous melodic line somewhere towards its end, which is one of those goosebumps moments when listening to music.

With Prelude we veer into a more frenzied version of Zypressen. Starting with the strings going on for almost a minute, we then are introduced to a melody which reminds me of Dune's album Eros, especially with the flute being brought in here. But then it goes on covering more musical grounds and this is probably the most diverse track on the album with the broadest scope of styles represented in it.

To contrast the aggressiveness of Prelude, the piano opening track 7 (its name is in Japanese) is relaxing and is followed by the strings and flute to enhance the calm "imposed" on us by the graceful playing. This sounds quite different than everything else here, as if taken from a classical ensemble album, and not from this type of group. Beautiful and pacifying piece, which some might not like to be in here as they may argue it doesn't fit. But I actually fit it is not too alienated from the rest of the album, though somewhat peculiar.

Seemingly continuing this "trend", track 8 (also a Japanese name) opens as if it's going to sound the same with the piano opening. But then joins the whole band with a groovy rhythm, also bringing to mind a Zeuhl sounding rhythm. This alternates between a rhythm-less part and back again and after a while drift into calm waters where the rhythm goes on more peacefully and then again gets agitated. They continue to develop it, going into a somewhat jazzy ground (but only slightly so). As the music goes, the Zeuhl elements are more noticeable and Potemkine came to mind.

One thing can be said about this album and that it's varied. Not only in the moods it creates and in the instruments employed but also in the attitude and approach of the musicians in the different tracks as I've described them above. Some might say it's too varied to the point of being not focused enough to allow the listener to enjoy himself, and not deciding on their own sound. But then, why would not all of the styles represented here be their sound? You might think of it this way, each track represents a different facet of the band, a different sound they want to express themselves through. Though I don't think it's un-focused, I do think the potential listener needs to be aware of the diversity found in here. But if you're into the bands or styles mentioned above, I don't think that the music will turn you off or disappoint you; though the choice of mixture might confuse you. To me this is a very well played album, diverse and beautiful, complex and interesting.

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 Zypressen by ZYPRESSEN album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.85 | 21 ratings

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Zypressen
Zypressen RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by chamberry
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars You would think that a band labeled avant-prog wouldn't be soft, warm and gentle to the touch, but Zypressen are just that. While still retaining certain outlandish qualities Zypressen's music sounds elegant, fine and graceful even in their angular moments. Whether you're listening to the dynamic and slightly sinister "Prelude" (they're too lighthearted and innocent to make a menacing song) or the delicate "HANA", every song is made with finesse and charm that Zypressen has mastered over the course of one album(!). Half of the songs present here have a strong sense of melody and harmony that many people would never think a group labeled as such would commonly have and that is probably the best quality Zypressen has. With these ear-friendly songs they smooth out the rough edges (which aren't all that rough to begin with) that the other more adventurous songs present in the album have. This well balanced mixed is critical to the enjoyment of this album and also gives it an interesting dynamic and some well needed balance while still sounding cohesive. While the melodic songs are made mostly with classical instruments like piano, clarinet, cello, violin and flute, the adventurous songs are mostly dominated by rock instruments, but the classical instruments also play a role in them.

The album comes off as one of the most accessible releases from a chamber rock or avant-prog band. The combination of beautiful classical tinged compositions with avant-garde ones is something that many fans will enjoy listening to. Newcomers to this kind of music will have an enjoyable first experience listening to Zypressen, they aren't too "weird" or "out there" for people getting into chamber rock. A great album with little flaws. Highly recommended for fans of chamber rock and newcomers alike.

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