Koenji Hyakkei

A Hundred Sights of Koenji

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AllMusic Review by Dominique Leone

Tatsuya Yoshida is an elder statesmen of the Japanese underground scene, taking his cues from progressive rock visionaries such as Magma's Christian Vander, as well as avant-prog outfits like Samla Mammas Manna (whom he would join at the turn of the millennium) and Italy's Area, but filtering his influences through modern noise sensibilities as represented by John Zorn and Keiji Haino. Where does this leave him? Scattered, to say the least. This band is one of dozens he is involved with; Yoshida tends to compartmentalize his projects. Koenji Hyakkei is his tribute to the "zeuhl" music of Magma, featuring massed choral lines, repetitive unison riffs, and even a lyric sung in a language of Yoshida's invention. For traditional prog fans, all of Koenji Hyakkei's albums are probably more approachable than Ruins (perhaps aside from Yoshida's 2011 outing as Ruins Alone), though they are still quite intense, with "real" vocals (with minimal screaming), flashy keyboard lines, and intricate guitar and basslines that serve nothing so much as actual melody! It is loud, and it is fairly bombastic, but this music is rooted in pieces such as Magma's Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh and "De Futura." Perhaps the most valuable player in the mix is singer/keyboardist Aki Kubota (formerly a member of Bondage Fruit). Her operatic, resonant vocal style suits this music to a T, and it may be only for the sake of following the zeuhl tradition that the other group members even sing at all. She wrote the music for two of the best (and most melodic) tunes on the disc, and is a very capable keyboardist as well. Two former members of Ruins complete the band, Ryuichi Masuda and Shigekazu Kuwahara. Yoshida's group of friends seemingly covers all of Tokyo, but he works best when he's surrounded by people who know his style well. Hundred Sights of Koenji is a landmark Japanese progressive rock album.

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