Koenjihyakkei - Angherr Shisspa
Every single Koenjihyakkei review I have read always starts by mentioning that the band's creative spine, Yoshida Tatsuya, was in the legendary, noisy drum and bass band Ruins, and this is definitely weirder and/or more brilliant than his work in that duo. Those reviews also tend to explain that his music is totally futu-prog/noise/whatever, as if that shred of genre knowledge is helpful at all when actually faced with the daunting task of digesting this record comfortably. My theory for these predictable descriptions is that too many people have been using the pitchforkmedia.com review as the primary means of prepping oneself for writing an imitative review. However, I'm going to drop down an even lower peg and recommend the wondrous wikipedia for learning about what Koenjihyakkei is going to sound like. Koenjihyakkei is apparently very inspired by the prog band [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magma_%28band%29]Magma[/url], and the subgenre Magma initiated, [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeuhl]Zeuhl[/url]. Also of note is that Magma's songwriter Christian Vander, made up his own language to suit his band called Kobaļan. And yes, while this is all very aloofy and proggy, this modern realization of Zheulian weirdness in the form of Koenjihyakkei produces some twists and turns that are drawn from many disparate and eclectic sources from jazz, to prog, to 20th century classical, and a few other experimental, "futuristic" genres, that you may not believe could be forced together in a potable way.
So what I guess I'm saying is that this album is completely wack, but there are traces of music that we've heard before. Present are the oddball vocal stylings of Mike Patton
(whose influence is also heard in the overall Mr. Bungle
feel) who leaps octaves and decibels like they're puddles. Also, there are female vocals that resemble those composed by 20th century composers like Schoenberg
on his unearthly "Passacaglia." The very apparent woodwinds, flute and saxophone mainly, sound like a mix of those of Return to Forever
, but also simultaneously the noodling, free jazz solos of Omar from The Mars Volta
. The bass can be both Frodus
-like but also doubles the bass line of the piano. Both combined really reminds me of [i]The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower[/l]'s most dissonant and crazy moments. The more impressive instrumentals come from the drums, which Yoshida himself plays. They feels like Magma
, mixed with the Tera Melos
, [i]Lightning Bolt[/l], and Hella
drums, but in well odder time signatures, with more changes. And then there's even xylophones in the mix to vex the listener even more. As you've probably gathered, the sound of this album is wacky, akin to a mix of circus music and free jazz, and I'm pretty sure you've never heard anything like it before.
But is it good? Maybe. If you listen to prog for its technical prowess alone, then sure, this is a great album. There is precision and ability required to play the parts, and they are inventive and enticing beyond that. However, if you listen to prog for more than just that, I feel like you'll be disappointed with this album. It feels like Yoshida's mind is bigger than our ears, and the resulting mess is just the piling up of too many insane styles and ideas. Imagine an artist mixing all the colors of paint together. The result, is the color brown. There is no definition to the quality of the mixing, which makes the whole album a little homogeneous as Yoshida and co. play away at 80% of light speed. I would like to see styles featured individually more often instead of all of them coming out at once. There are moments on this album that do feel refined or tasteful though. Take the beginning minute and a half of the song "Rattims Friezz," which sounds like a zanier Jaga Jazzist and is really cool. Unfortunately, Koenjihyakkei opts to break out of this cool groove to move into a territory with a really messed up bass line and odd ascending piano harmony. The song spirals around prog and jazz for the rest of the time with a fairly enjoyable, but not ideal flavor. This example is one of many where the band and listener seems to grasp a truly amazing moment, but in reality it's just preparing to move away to some tangential and ultimately less appealing territory, which is what is keeping me lukewarm about this album as a whole. I like individual parts, and it's style is shockingly new and fun, but overall I wish there was more to grasp onto, and more diversity from section to section instead of having the diversity strike all at once.
Recommended Tracks: Rattims Friezz (for its smoothness), Fettim Paillu (for its eeriness), and Angher Shisspa (for its insanity and spontaneity)