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KOENJI HYAKKEI

Zeuhl • Japan


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Koenji Hyakkei picture
Koenji Hyakkei biography
Founded in Tokyo, Japan in 1991

Take MAGMA, AREA and ELP at their most excessive, feed them an overdose of caffeine and you'll get the gist of what KOENJI HYAKKEI sound like. Or imagine the speed of DEUS EX MACHINA and then add many more tempo changes and musical ideas. Anyone not ready for some insane, amphetamine-driven prog are advised to stay clear of this foursome. As for others, they're in for the musical roller coaster of their lives. Headed by vocalist, composer and drummer extraordinaire Tatsuya Yoshida, this Zeuhl quartet is an offshoot of Japanese cult duo RUINS. In addition to RUINS' own bassist Shigekazu Kuwahara and drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, KOENJI HYAKKEI also feature excellent female vocalist/keyboardist Aki Kubota (who is replaced by Nami Sagara on their third album). From the second album on, Shigekazu Kuwahara was replaced by Sakamoto Kengo on bass and vocals. The third album also saw the addition of Keiko Komori on reeds and AH on vocals, as well as keyboard contributions by Taku Yabuki (now the keyboard player for the band).

All of the group's albums are insanely hyper, all exploding with flashy keyboard lines, intricate death-metal guitar riffs, speedy, convoluted bass/drum patterns, operatic female vocals that border on apocalyptic war cries and chanted in a language of their own (a nod to MAGMA); all this combined with a superhuman technique and catchy, complex arrangements. As of 2010, the group has released four albums and four DVDs. The current lineup is Tatsuya Yoshida (drums, vocals), Kengo Sakamoto (bass, vocals), Keiko Komori (reeds), Taku Yabuki (keyboards) and AH (vocals). The newest DVD includes two new songs not yet available on any studio albums.

If you like bizarre, wild and zany prog such as MAGMA, Mr. BUNGLE or PRIMUS, you'll have your hands, ears and a few other things full with these guys. Definitely recommended.

: : : Lise (HIBOU), CANADA : : : with updates from SaltyJon

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KOENJI HYAKKEI discography


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KOENJI HYAKKEI top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.82 | 99 ratings
Hundred Sights Of Koenji
1994
4.04 | 106 ratings
弌 (Two) [Aka: Viva Koenji !]
1997
3.89 | 99 ratings
Nivraym
2001
4.01 | 174 ratings
Angherr Shisspa
2005
4.11 | 88 ratings
Dhorimviskha
2018

KOENJI HYAKKEI Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

KOENJI HYAKKEI Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.71 | 8 ratings
Live At The Star Pine's Cafe
2002
4.00 | 11 ratings
Koenjihyakkei Live At Doors
2006
4.43 | 5 ratings
070531
2008
4.88 | 8 ratings
Live at Koenji High
2010

KOENJI HYAKKEI Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

KOENJI HYAKKEI Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

KOENJI HYAKKEI Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Dhorimviskha by KOENJI HYAKKEI album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.11 | 88 ratings

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Dhorimviskha
Koenji Hyakkei Zeuhl

Review by theaqua

5 stars ''It's as if Magma drank a lot of caffeine and from that comes Dhorimviskha''

Dhorimviskha is the fifth album by the Japanese band Zeuhl, Koenjihyakkei one of several projects made by drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, Koenjihyakkei had a long hiatus of 13 years from 2005 after releasing Angherr Shisspa until 2018, Koenjihyakkei has a discography that I was always curious to hear , is probably Tatsuya's most popular band, and Zeuhl has always been a genre that fascinated me due to its mix of classical music with progressive rock created by Magma, so I finally went to listen to this album to try this band and man, its fantastic!

This is a Zeuhl album of the highest level, the melodies use a lot of dissonance to convey a very strange sensation, polyrhythm for all the songs and impressive techniques, despite Zeuhl being in a way, inaccessible, and just because of the names of the songs like ''Djebelaki Zomn'' and ''Flessttighas'' already convey the feeling that it's going to be an extremely complex and difficult... complex album? yes, and then there comes a point, Dhorimviskha ends up being, in my opinion, a great entry point for those who have never heard Zeuhl, but in no way does it lose its complexity, the adorable exaggeration that this album has, when I listening to it, I was smiling, because the songs are very fun and everything is very humorous, but even so, the musicians always attack with virtuosity, technique and emotion, a great balance in that sense which in my opinion elevates this album even more , I simply love Tatsuya drums and as is metallic and fast, but he is not the only one who stands out, everyone is very capable, Koganemaru Kei solos are very unique and visceral, Sakamoto Kengo bass is very good, and in general, no musician ends being less prominent, the vocals are an interesting part, the album has no lyrics! They are just random sounds that serve to give melody to the song, very characteristic of Zeuhl, and the vocals are really beautiful, captivating and substantial.

Dhorimviskha is a party of virtuous Japanese musicians who constantly exude creativity, fun and exaggeration, each song has something to offer, with a Zeuhl wonderful touches, chaotic but well controlled melodies, varied but consistent composition, beautiful vocals, and a perfect balance between complexity and fun and the 7 songs as a whole are all essential, with Dhorimviskha, Koenjihyakkei created one of the best albums of 2018 and Honestly, despite not having listened to their discography to compare, it's difficult for them to surpass this one Album anyway, listen , both for those who like Zeuhl and for those who have never heard or like Strange music, Dhorimviskha is super worth it and is easily one of the best albums I've heard this year.

10/10

 Hundred Sights Of Koenji by KOENJI HYAKKEI album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.82 | 99 ratings

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Hundred Sights Of Koenji
Koenji Hyakkei Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

3 stars Sitting somewhere between Bondage Fruit and Ruins on the chaos-o-meter, Koenjihyakkei were another piece of the jigsaw in the 90s explosion of Japanese Zeuhl. Their debut album is a pretty clear tribute to Magma, particularly in the vocal style, but it is mostly a lot faster paced, certainly not the dirge (and I mean that in a positive way) of MDK. There's a variety of Avant Garde style, but it doesn't divert from the drum-driven, bass heavy, vocal word-salad stylings of Zeuhl. Very generally, the first half of the album is the most structured (but with manic and complex moments), with the chaos peaking in the middle with Ozone Fall and Zhess. This drops away with the church organ/chamber choir style track Zoltan, but is a one off as the fast-paced take on Zeuhl otherwise runs throughout. I haven't dug into individual tracks because they are fairly similar in style otherwise - but that's not necessarily a bad thing here.
 Dhorimviskha by KOENJI HYAKKEI album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.11 | 88 ratings

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Dhorimviskha
Koenji Hyakkei Zeuhl

Review by DangHeck
Prog Reviewer

5 stars With Fusion-style keyboards during the opener sounding mighty triumphant (like something out of the debut UTOPIA album), we also have the now-classic stylings of Tatsuya YOSHIDA of RUINS, with excellent rhythm, exciting changes and, of course, the tribal near-Kobaļan group vocal chants.

What's always been most refreshing about Koenji Hyakkei is just how much more diverse they are (from their peers and from those who came before), combining what one would expect from a MAGMA release but with more classic Rock tropes (and classic Progressive Rock tropes---see "Levhorn", for instance, which could easily have been writ in part by Rod ARGENT), more Fusion elements than most (again, the keys, but also the bass like on "Djebelaki Zomin") as well as the freedoms that come with a larger ensemble: drums, bass, keyboards, reeds, guitars, with most all players present additionally providing those aforementioned, and excellently executed, group vocalizations.

Progressive Rock of the highest order, especially in this day and age. It does not disappoint. Tasty compositions, polyrhythmic mastery and exciting, virtuosic drama with the interplay between instrument and the musicians themselves.

 Dhorimviskha by KOENJI HYAKKEI album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.11 | 88 ratings

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Dhorimviskha
Koenji Hyakkei Zeuhl

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars How could one not be impressed with a Koenji Hyakkei album? The musicianship is so virtuosic, so clean and crisp, the compositions so complex and unpredictable. The first listen is always jarring and sometimes abrasive, but it is with repeated listens (and familiarity) that one begins to enjoy (and dance). Still, there is a lot of stylistic variety on display here--many Western and non-Zeuhl influences tapped into--it's not just one straightforward Zeuhl-fest.

1. "Vleztemtraiv" (10:18) though still aggressive and technically amazing, this song gives one the feel that the band is trying to move back closer to the Magma model of Zeuhl (except for the seventh minute, that is). I love Yoshida's use of the snare (a second snare?) with its snare wire disengaged. It's like he's playing the part of filling holes in the music. Incredibly tight vocal scatting to follow/mirror the blistering sax play. Amazing (and different) Hammond organ play in the final two minutes. Impressive song! True Zeuhl. A top three song for me. (19/20)

2. "Levhorm" (9:12) going deep into the South for some Muscle Shoals Bayou Blues. Now this is different. Singer (Koganemaru Kei?) even sounds like she's trained and singing in African-American English. And then she scats at Mahavishnu speed in tandem with the clarinet! Impressive though not my favorite. (18/20)

3. "Zjindhaiq" (7:32) opens in militaristic march form, slowly speeding up till the end of the first minute when it restarts, settling into a fairly sedate (for Koenji Hyakkei) and straightforward pattern and cadence. Then the third minute throws us a polyrhythmic curve before settling back into the more linear groove. Interesting space synth and male soprano vocal thrown into the fourth minute--it's almost pretty! Sax and tenor male take over at the end of the fourth with piano and drums providing a steady accompaniment. The fifth minute remains harmonically pleasing despite some complex craziness added by the guitar and Terry Jones female voices. A little more Ork-like aggressive at the end of the sixth minute before returning to a more straightforward female opera singer-led finale- -a finale of disintegration. I actually really like this one--for both its humor, beauty, and "contained anarchy"! My second top three song. (What a show!) (14/15)

4. "Phlessttighas" (6:22) more syncopated, stoccato in form, there is a very familiar American jazz feel to this one, despite it's lurching jerkinesss. Like 1970s Chick Corea. There are even some repetitive motifs that could turn into "sing-a-long" ear worms! Doesn't quite climb to the heights or craziness of the previous songs, but still great. (8.75/10)

5. "Djebelaki Zomn" (9:49) full band weave with choral vocals and lead female vocals more buried in the mix than on previous songs, panning guitars and pounding piano chords with more straightforward rock-style drumming and lead clarinet and synths tell me this one is going to impress. A little harder to engage with--there is so much going on!--I am trying to pay attention to so many individual and machine gun delivered elements! In the fifth minute we shift gears into Autobahn speeds while Yoshido's hollow snare bangs away beneath searing rock electric guitar solo. After a little bridge, we are delivered into a classic jazz piano solo--complete with jazz bass walks and stylish jazz drum play! Then, in the seventh minute, we turn a corner onto a side street in order to regale at the large window dressings of the shops there. Everything seems to slow down into slow motion here though soprano sax and female vocalese continue scat-soloing above. Electric guitar and sax join up to blister away a solo section as the car turns back onto the highway to play chicken with the cars driving the wrong way (or are we?) until the lights go out. (We must be dead.) Cool song. (18.5/20)

6. "Palbeth Tissilaq" (6:09) with harpsichord-sounding guitar built into a slow, French-sounding weave, we are treated to Ah's controlled and beautiful operatic singing. Piano jazz solo follows as rolling bass, percussion hits, and strummed acoustic "harpsichord" guitar accompany. This is pretty jazz lulling us into hypnotic ease, until we are suddenly jarred to awakeness in the fourth minute by a full-on rock assault--Hammond organ in the lead. I loved the "soft" lulling parts but feel that the rock assault in the final two minutes does nothing special--sounds too much like KH just trying to be abrasive (for no reason). (8.75/10)

7. "Dhorimviskha" (11:47) For the first time I feel that female vocalese and sax are not on the same page. Piano- guitar chord play at foundation are a bit rudimentary for KH standards--as is the crazy-but nothing-special guitar solo in the third minute. The new motif established at the end of the third minute works well--has a very Russian- Magma feel to it--even if it is more simplistic rock than some of the earlier songs. These radio-friendly themes continue to the mark to the six minute mark. Then drummer and pianist take a turn into time signature oddity before letting the music strip down and "fall apart" (unravel) into kind of free jazz. Yoshida really gets to show off in this section. Don Pullen-like piano play in the eighth and ninth minutes is reacting to the odd time sigs and syncopation hits as the singers vocalize their parts with extreme melodrama as if acting in some ancient Greek tragedy. Music gradually and insidiously slows down as if the thespians are enacting a nightfall scene--but then they rally for one last burst for the final 15 seconds. I love it! My final top three song. (22.25/25)

Total Time 61:09

It becomes obvious to me that I favor the longer, more complex and diverse songs of this album. They also seem much more theatric, which, apparently, I like. There's a Monty Python-like humor and intelligence in this music that I really connect with and admire.

A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of jazz-rock-infused high energy Zeuhl.

 Nivraym by KOENJI HYAKKEI album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.89 | 99 ratings

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Nivraym
Koenji Hyakkei Zeuhl

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars They're back! and with a line-up that includes not one or two but three new musicians. Brace yourself! (And please, anyone with any kind of heart conditions: Proceed with extreme caution!)

1. "Nivraym" (5:40) I'm sorry, but as virtuosic as these instrumentalists/vocalists may be, I cannot hear this song without thinking that their whole Zeuhl shtick is mostly tongue-in-cheek. Crazy but how can you not appreciate the skills and confidence involved in creating and performing this music? (9.5/10)

2. "Becttem Pollt" (5:21) powerful and dramatic if a little too uniform and one-dimensional. (8.75/10)

3. "Lussesoggi Zomn" (10:26) I think they hired NINA HAGEN for this one! Simple sparse notes from piano and bass with Nami going crazy. The band coalesces into a fast-driving heavy rock ensemble for the second and third minutes as Japanese versions of Kobaia take on a variety of crazed and crazy forms. Definitely Zeuhlish. I wonder what Christian Vander thinks. Guitar solo is more rock-like than Zeuhl, but it is short-lived as band slips into several different Zeuhl motifs before we have a chance to integrate what we've just heard. Incredible confidence to practice, perfect, and record this piece of complex music. (Though it is not perfect: there are performance flaws. But, what do you expect for a band's first effort with this lineup--three new members?) Several sections are over-extended a bit, but, otherwise, this is mind-boggling stuff. Nami Sagara is a force! (17.75/20)

4. "Vissqaguell" (5:31) several tracks are very heavy on the distortion (I think intentionally), and the pace of this one is amazing. It makes Christian V. & Co. really seem slow and old! There are so many incredible exploits here: vocally, keyboards, drums and bass, guitars. How does one write such material? (8.75/10)

5. "Mederro Passquirr" (6:23) a little more grounded in Western styles (drumming, synth sound choices, electric guitar work, straightforward bass), this one still shocks and surprises. What a keyboard player! At 1:20 things settle into an almost Broadway choral piece--with simple piano chords providing the main direction for the elaborate choral performances. This is more MAGMA-like familiar Zeuhl. I like it but it's not as exciting or innovative as the previous songs. Highly intricate vocal demands from the fifth minute on--almost Leonard Bernstein-like. (8.75/10)

6. "Axall Hasck" (6:34) synths and Mellotron leading this one as more straightforward (though wickedly fast) bass, guitar, drums, voice, and sax try to keep up. It's like a race to catch the keyboard rabbit. Only the off-trail sax has a chance, veering in and out of the weave, until the half way point when everybody downshifts from overdrive to 5th gear--and then at 3:30 when there is another downshift into a kind of Latin rhythm while Nami solos. The keyboards' solos that follow are more human--though the bass, sax, and drums now begin to go off on their own crazed frenetic path--which only incites the synth to take the lead back across the finish line. (8.75/10)

7. "Maschtervoz" (4:10) are they tiring? Slower and more spacious--only the sax is in the usual zone of amphetamine. Nami and Jin and Kenichi are fairly subdued compared to their previous selves. It sure does showcase Keiko's sax, though. (8.25/10)

8. "Gassttrumm (9:24) again, the reins are on as the band proceeds in a much more controlled, humanly pace--though still incredibly intricately constructed and performed. At the two minute mark there is a slight shift for searing synth solo before a shift into space Zeuhl with some wild drumming beneath the synth and vocal melody line. It's like a conversation between the synth and the drummer with the rest of the band providing support and context. Very cool! Now at the end of the fourth minute the bass gets a turn to let loose with the drummer. Another synth turn, bass and drums, synth, etc. all the while the vocalists At 5:20 there is a sudden right turn into macho Western man territory while bass, guitar riff, and drums support the soloing synthesizer player--this time with a much more familiar prog-like solo ripping up the soundwaves. Man this guy can play! With 90 seconds to play we shift back into a more breakneck straight ahead speed before another oddly computer-like epithet and then an unexpectedly cohesive finish. Amazing song. (18.5/20)

9. "Vallczeremdoss" (4:49) more controlled whole band weave opens this one--until the second minute when the choral vocals enter--then things go time wonky--nothing staying the same for more than a measure or two. How do they do it? How does a whole band stay on course with this kind of intricacy? And then what follows--the voices trying to keep up with the instruments--is simply unbelievable! (9.75/10)

Total Time: 58:18

B+/4.5 stars; an absolutely astonishing display of compositional brilliance with nearly as astonishing performances. In fact, that would be my only criticism of the music on this album: sometimes it just seems too much of a stretch for any human to perform to perfection! Still, an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection. Just be prepared: you're heart- and breathing rates will be elevated for quite a while during and after listening to this album!

 Dhorimviskha by KOENJI HYAKKEI album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.11 | 88 ratings

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Dhorimviskha
Koenji Hyakkei Zeuhl

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams

3 stars The album "Dhorimviskha" created by a brilliant Japanese Zeuhl project KOENJI HYAKKEI has been released into the progressive rock scene in the summer 2018. Every track has an eccentric title (don't know what manner they give such a funky title to a track in), weird melody lines, complicated rhythmic bases, or incredibly technical instrument activities. Surely you can feel it should be an enjoyable creation as well. Or let me say, you can run away from the real serious world through the material in this opus definitely.

They use multi-rhythmic phrases in a repetitive manner, based upon critical drumming, seasoned fantastically with Ah's high-tone voices, Keiko's funkadelic wind instrument plays, Kengo's deep, deeper bass tones, Kei's speedy guitar storm, and Taku's sincere jazzy keyboard shower. Their serious, positive, delightful play is crazy great indeed, even in a incredibly sound bizarre, and the frontman Tatsuya YOSHIDA should be crazy nasty at the drumming or percussion without doubt ... yes without any doubt. Wondering how they launch a novelty different from previous material, and for me sounds more of technique or strength, and less of creativity nor potentiality.

Of course, their performance upon stage drives you mad. I'm looking forward to their gig along with this magnificent album ... yikes.

 Dhorimviskha by KOENJI HYAKKEI album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.11 | 88 ratings

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Dhorimviskha
Koenji Hyakkei Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic

4 stars Ever since Christian Vander introduced the world to a new bizarre form of jazzy rock that contained seeds of alien contacts in his band Magma, many of the most extreme and adventurous musicians of the entire world have followed in his footsteps and added their own stamp on the crazy musical world that has become known as zeuhl. While many of these bands have come from Vander's native France, this bizarre field in fusion paradise has also attracted many others from around the world but perhaps no other nation has been so interested in adding their signature mind bending freakery to the style more than Japan and perhaps the single individual who has contributed the most to zeuhl's evolution in the 21st century is the indefatigable Tatsuya Yoshida (吉田達也) who has kept several plates spinning with his admirable Ruins, Ruinzhatova and Akaten (amongst many many other endeavors). However without a doubt the most ambitious of his projects has to be the hyperactively absurd musical smorgasbord of KOENJI HYAKKEI (高円寺百景).

While KOENJI HYAKKEI (高円寺百景) released their debut album "Hundred Sights Of Koenji" (the literal meaning of the band name) all the way back in 1994, this band hasn't exactly been the most prolific of Yoshida's projects since only four albums were released between the debut and 2005. While seemingly disbanded, like a good Godzilla movie, this monstrous musical beast has returned a full 13 years later with another brutally delicious extreme zeuhl piece of work in the form of DHORIMVISHKA which finds Tatsuya returning on drums and vocals along with bassist Sakamoto Kengo and woodwind maestro Komori Keiko. Joining the cast is keyboardist Yabuki Taku, guitarist and vocalist Koganemaru Kei and vocalist "Ah" Yamamoto Kyoto. Anyone familiar with KOENJI HYAKKEI (高円寺百景) will surely be aware of their unhinged adventurous nature and with this new cleverly crafted edition to their ongoing legacy, the band concoct one of the most adventurous and labyrinthine albums of their entire existence with the expected bubbling zeuhl rhythms bursting with obsessively frenetic time signature workouts, virtuosic instrumental attacks and some of the most over-the-top operatic vocals you could ever hope for.

If bands like Magma were like introductions to an alien civilization with gentle melodic developments that slowly ratcheted up to crescendoes, then KOENJI HYAKKEI (高円寺百景) is more like an extraterrestrial attack where every cadence and every measure of sonic possibility is a crescendo as if everything were turned up way to 11 and the extrem-o-meter was set for "mind melt." As with previous albums, DHORIMVISHKA is simply uncompromising in its relentless angular bouncing from one adrenaline fueled track to another. While the term brutal prog is a rather recent appellation that simply describes of brand of progressive rock that nurtures all the progressive accoutrements lavishly and takes them all to their logical extremities, this indeed is THE signature attribute for one of Japan's most unusually energetic musical troops as they accrue a unique zeuhl inspired flow embellished by percussive pummelation usually reserved for extreme metal and vocal gymnastics that sounds like someone spiked the divas drinks with high quality and long lasting methamphetamines that allow them to do unthinkable performances at breakneck speed.

DHORIMVISHKA is divided into seven lengthy tracks ranging from the six to twelve minute mark with each finding its own unique expressiveness but share the hyperactive overdrive antics. The star of the show is clearly vocalist Yamamoto Kyoto as she whizzes up and down the operatic scales flawlessly as the pummeling percussive drive plods along in conjunct with the excessive distortion of guitar riffs and solos, brash bass bravado and the unique mix of saxophone and clarinet attacks. The music is as wild and utterly unhinged as music can be and is as weird as the freaky track titles such as "Palbeth Tissilaq" and "Zjindhaiq" indicate. It goes without saying that this is extremely highly complex music but it is in reality exaggerated out of fairly easy to digest and humble beginnings. The melodies are well established, the rhythms are consistent and the deviations happen at a deliberate calculated pace so that the overall sense of order doesn't completely devolve into utter chaos.

For those who love the zeuhl rock opera sound that mixes and melds the expected marital and repetitive rhythmic percussive drive with larger than life chanted vocals in wordless or at least alien language form in a trance-like minimalism only laced with the excessive bombast of guitar runs, overweening saxophone squawks, glass shattering vocal antics and aggressive time signature and tempo changes, then you've come to the right slice of an alternative reality with KOENJI HYAKKEI (高円寺百景) who continues their unique trend of splicing and dicing zeuhl realities with avant-prog angular abstraction to create an edifice of powerful extreme prog that recognizes no boundaries. And whose only mission is to pummel the senses into utter submission like a blitzkrieg of sonic freneticism that attacks like a swarm of angry hornets. Despite this over the top bout with complexity, it's absolutely amazing how KOENJI HYAKKEI (高円寺百景) adds a sense of firm control over the monster of their making like a lion tamer in a circus with only a small whip and a whole heap of confidence to keep it all from going terribly awry. KOENJI HYAKKEI (高円寺百景) are back with a vengeance and Tokyo will never be the same!

 Dhorimviskha by KOENJI HYAKKEI album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.11 | 88 ratings

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Dhorimviskha
Koenji Hyakkei Zeuhl

Review by Norbert

5 stars Dhorimvishka is the fifth studio album of Japanese Zeuhl/Avant band Koenjihyakkei. I usually trie to curb my enthusiasm when it comes to rating and reviewing new releases to allow for a cooling off period, but the new album of Koenjihyakkei deserves attention (well, all Koenjihyakkei albums do.). I was already very excited when I learned about the release of this album, their last studio effort was released in 2005, quite a long time ago. The albums artwork for the mini LP sleeve is probably their most beautiful to date, and I considered the track listing very encouraging. 7 tracks in 61 minutes, and as a general rule the 8-10 minute long compositons of Koenjihyakkei are often the best. Koenjihyakkey is a sextet here, the soaring lead vocals of the lady called Ah (aka Yamamoto Kyoko) are accompanied by the chants of the male band members, mastermind and world class drummer Yoshida Tatsuya, longtime bassist Sakamoto Kengo, and new guitar player Koganemaru Kei. The band is complete with the keyboards of Yabuki Teku and the woodwinds of the other lady Komori Keiko. As always the musicanship is of the highest calibre (not only the drumming.), and Ah has an impressive range. The music basically Zeuhl, but with more twist that French legend Magma. There are influences from symphonic music, jazzrock, metal, hardcore punk, and even from soul music (the second track Levhorm). The seven compositions are full of complexity, breaks, tempo changes, and dyamic contrasts, but the arrangements are very well structured, this music is controlled chaos from finest! This music comes very hyperactive and excessiv accross, especially at first listening, but there are more laid back jazz-like and even acoustic moments, and there is a healthy dose of catchyness, and fortunately they do not take themselfes too seriously. Certainly, 2-3 listenings are nothing to explore this album, but with more than a week experience I may conclude that all 7 tracks are very good, there are no kind of filler tracks, like on some of their earlier albums. Maybe this is even my favourite Koenjihyakkei album so far.

 弌 (Two) [Aka: Viva Koenji !] by KOENJI HYAKKEI album cover Studio Album, 1997
4.04 | 106 ratings

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弌 (Two) [Aka: Viva Koenji !]
Koenji Hyakkei Zeuhl

Review by Tapfret
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars The Zeuhl bloom of 1990's Japan appeared explosive from my vantage point across the sea. One of the most important figures, one might even use an overblown term like "The Godfather of Japanese Zeuhl", was percussionist Tatsuya Yoshida. As the creator of Ruins, what was likely the best known Zeuhl act in the country and progenitor of the movement, Tatsuya set out on a more diverse undertaking than the 2-man act he was previously known for. The result was Koenjihyakkei. Here we find their second album which I will refer to as Viva Koenji!! since that is the part of the cover I can read, likely the most accessible Koenjihyakkei album to this point.

At risk of overusing the term, this album opens in explosive fashion. Right out of the gate Viva Koenji!! shows that the comparative diversity to Ruins does not come at the cost of energy. The similarities between the two bands are obvious and numerous. Vocally the album is preached with the administration of syllabic rhythms of an unknown, seemingly alien language; a perhaps a sort of omni-lingual Esperanto, very similar if not exactly the language used in Ruins. I have honestly not researched the actual spoken words deeply enough to know. In any case, this linguistic set comes from a larger chorus that consists of two female voices that on this album is keyboardist Aki Kubota overdubbed in recording, and three male backing vocals. It is clear that the female vocal is the intended lead, with the male vocals either harmonizing or providing background orcish grunts and chants. Later manifestations and live performances would have multiple female vox on board. Stylistically the is an obvious leaning to the operatic tonality that is the Zeuhl formula on either continent where it is semi-popularized. The vocals alternate between dominant manic sequences and the drawn out clear legatos. The compositional themes are rhythmically dynamic, but do not employ any poly-metrics. Guitars are distorted but not to metal levels. Keyboards employ the use of organ and piano sounds with the occasional moogy waveforms. The overall presentation is complex but accessible, dark but energetic, and dynamic but deliberate.

Later Koenjihyakkei would employ more Rock in Opposition style rhythmic abnormality and instrumental dissonance. That likely makes Viva Koenji!! the most accessible of their albums to this point. Therefore it is highly recommended as an entry point to Koenjihyakkei's music, and in fact, the Japanese Zeuhl scene as a whole. I also recommend as a companion to this album the live DVD Live at Doors which features a number of songs from their first four albums including Viva Koenji!! as a good transition to their more challenging albums.

A very excellent album that would be a fine addition to any prog collection. 4 stars

 Angherr Shisspa by KOENJI HYAKKEI album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.01 | 174 ratings

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Angherr Shisspa
Koenji Hyakkei Zeuhl

Review by marcobrusa

5 stars Like 7 years ago i discovered Koenji through this site. So many thanks. This is their only album i could listen many times since then, because it's their most accesible one. It is unstoppable, original, and challenging. No more guitars in the instrumentation; sounds softer (but it is still crazy anyways). Try to find something as crazy as this, i dare you! In fact, it's so eccentric that it tired me after repeated listens. However, i keep coming back every now and then, because it's quality is undeniable. The arrangements have many sharp edges that may hurt some people, be careful with the volume and your state of mind if you are going to play this album. 5 stars for the guts!!
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