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Thread: FEATURED CD: Koenjihyakkei - Angherr Shisspa

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    Moderator Poisoned Youth's Avatar
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    FEATURED CD: Koenjihyakkei - Angherr Shisspa





    Review from Pitchfork (Dominique Leone)

    Picture this: a very strange time for the country; dissatisfaction at all points, assisted by a long-standing economic downturn and a distant war that infuriates half the population and seems irrelevant to the other half-- except of course when they have to buy gas, or catch TV news. The American president is polarizing, and if you believe the news media (which, by the way, half the country doesn't-- or will only hear from sympathetic sources), seems as secretive and sinister as the people he was supposed to have fought on the other side of the globe. At the same time, there are constant reminders of progressive thought: unprecedented technological advances, both globally and in outer space; an almost surreal feeling of community and discovery via networks never before imagined. Sure, it's a scary place sometimes, but peering through the colorful distractions, money (or lack thereof), politics, and social strife, somehow this place manages not to explode. Is it a desire for unity? Love or justice? It's hard to pinpoint, but it's enough to stave off civil war for the time being.

    But this isn't 2005, it's 1968. Just as now, kids then stepped into the middle of the circus any number of ways, from political involvement, to the workforce, to the arts. In music, the tense, multi-directional pull of urban life was felt in radical methods of expression: psychedelia, proto-punk, exaggerated white blues and the actual embrace of forms of music previously out of range (world music, country, and of course soul and funk). Scenes merged and splintered and got mixed up again, creating altogether new ones-- or conversely, the late 60s eliminated the idea of permanent scenes at all, in favor of ever mutating movements of sound. Progressive rock happened this way, and as then, now seems to lurk just around the corner.

    In 2005, rock-based progressive music is bubbling below the surface with almost as much vigor as it did in the late 60s, just before it hit the pop charts in the early 70s during the heyday of Yes and ELP. We've got Animal Collective, Lightning Bolt, Black Dice, Mars Volta, Vooredoms, Fantomas, Orthrelm, Ruins, Liars, Excepter, Dillinger Escape Plan, Sunn 0))), the Psychic Paramount, seemingly all of Finland...Somehow over the past decade, an onus of experimentation has shifted from the academics and electronic musicians to the rock bands-- just like it did in the almost 40 years ago.

    Japan's Tatsuya Yoshida has seen it all. As half of the kinetic duo Ruins (and countless other projects), he's helped usher in the idea that rock bands can both "rock" and do "crazy shit," usually at the same time. He had precedents (see prog's extended canon), but is easily seen as a godfather of today's blossoming art-rock-noise-pop scene. Koenjihyakkei (or "hundred sights of Koenji", referring the area of Tokyo where Yoshida lives) is my favorite of all his bands: imagine Ruins + three or four more people doing interplanetary opera, and you're getting there. The most obvious reference is to French avant-proggers Magma, but on Angherr Shisspa, the band's fourth album, there are also ties to Canterbury prog (Hatfield and the North, National Health) and RIO (Henry Cow, Art Bears).

    Koenjihyakkei's sound is a compact mix of operatic vocals, repetitive unison riffs, lots of drums and piano, and, with the recent addition of reedist Komori Keiko, the occasional sax solo. In "Rattims Friezz" (don't try translating-- Yoshida's words are in a language of his own invention), droney instrumental vamps (dig the opening synth silo), high-speed choral vocals and a surprisingly mellow breakdown near the end where Keiko takes over with his soprano sax-- just before the vocals come in again, and the band pounces on the main riff like a chamber classical group suffering from ADHD. Likewise, the title track alternates almost inhumanly angular melody lines with calmer sections featuring soft vocals and saxophone. For fans of Koenjihyakkei's records, this stuff will seem might different. Gone are the metal guitar overloads, but have no fear, it's not that these guys have gone soft, rather Soft Machine.

    Bassist Kengo Sakamoto's "Mibingvahre" begins as an island chant with hand percussion before exploding into relative chaos via group improv and Yoshida's typically unhinged drumming. There is an emphasis on keyboards throughout (similar to the band's previous album NIVRAYM, though Angherr Shisspa sounds much better recorded), though generally not playing flashy solos. Piano and synthesizer plays the role of guitar, fleshing out the riffs and vamps on "Grahbem Jorgazz" and the epic closing piece "Wammilica Iffirom". The overall sound is aggressive and quick, though perhaps not as violent as many of Yoshida's other projects can be. Still, his stuff towers over most modern progressive rock because of an attention to detail and almost overwhelming force of conviction. No irony here: this rocks with the teeth and heart to cut through scenes and the "overground" like a knife.





    WANTED: Sig-worthy quote.

  2. #2
    I really enjoy all of their albums (including that original mix of Nivraym), yet this one somehow sits apart. While the inevitable over-the-top intensity is there at almost each and every moment, the more squarely "electroacoustic" instrumentation and somewhat lighter production sees to it that you can listen to more than one or two tracks at a time. With Yoshida's stuff, this is not always the case - although I luv him as such.

    Fantastic band, and probably the place to start with Yoshida.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

  3. #3
    This is Yoshida's best work and we all know that is saying a lot

  4. #4
    I'm here for the moosic NogbadTheBad's Avatar
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    This and Viva are my favorite Yoshida albums in my small collection.
    Ian

    Gordon Haskell - "You've got to keep the groove in your head and play a load of bollocks instead"
    I blame Wynton, what was the question?
    There are only 10 types of people in the World, those who understand binary and those that don't.

  5. #5
    A band that is on frequent rotation on my decks after all these years...
    Macht das ohr auf!

    COSMIC EYE RECORDS

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    I really enjoy all of their albums (including that original mix of Nivraym), yet this one somehow sits apart. While the inevitable over-the-top intensity is there at almost each and every moment, the more squarely "electroacoustic" instrumentation and somewhat lighter production sees to it that you can listen to more than one or two tracks at a time. With Yoshida's stuff, this is not always the case - although I luv him as such.
    I know what you mean. When you're in the mood for Yoshida, almost nothing else will do (I'd say that Cardiacs are maybe the one band that trigger the same kind of response). And when you're not, my god does it annoy the pants off you. Koenjihyakkei is such a special band because it's really the first time Yoshida is able to find a group of musicians that can keep up with him - usually he works as a duo, or when he's in a full band he has to tone himself down - but with Koenji he found a band that can play the whole Magma catalog backwards. I really hope they do a new album one of these days!! Four isn't enough!

  7. #7
    Member wideopenears's Avatar
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    My favorite album of this band, and also my favorite Yoshida stuff....though sometimes nothing but Ruins will scratch an itch..

  8. #8
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    Terrific album...

  9. #9
    I must agree with all the above. My favourite Yoshida record too. One of the best albums of this century so far, I reckon. Rattims Friezz is just the greatest.

    I feel very fortunate to have seen them doing this stuff live. Incredible performance, the new (ish) singer has a curiously electrifying, entertaining and incredibly warm charisma emanating from her.

    Remarkable band.

  10. #10
    Member Lebofsky's Avatar
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    The first two songs on this record alone are worth the price of admission. Great, great work.

    - Matt

  11. #11
    It seems like on this album everything comes together for Yoshida
    The compositions are more mature the arrangements are imaginative the production and sound are his best yet
    and yes the line up here is just stellar
    its really weird that its now nearly a decade with no followup especially cause they were highly active as a live band ( 3 live dvds since this came out )

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    A classic of its kind. I feel extemely lucky to have been able to see them perform live twice. Once at NEARfest, and once at a bar in downtown Toronto, Canada!!!!

    neil

  13. #13
    I saw them 3 times Gouveia RIO and Lyon
    They blew the roof at RIO

  14. #14
    Member progholio's Avatar
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    i bought this cd as a primer for their Nearfest appearance and was pretty floored, but was completely blown away after seeing the live perfomance.
    Yoshida is a madman.
    this is thread is a good reminder that my collection is sorely lacking in Ruins.

  15. #15
    Member zravkapt's Avatar
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    I missed the guitar on this, but the production is a step up from previous albums.

  16. #16
    I agree that this is Yoshida's strongest album, and I believe this was around the time I saw Koenji live in NYC. Definitely one of the ten best shows I have ever seen! Completely over the top and mindblowing!

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    Woderful record. I enjoy it immensely. I always wondered where to go next, but I'm never able to make a decision because I know this is their best produced album. So, where should I go next in terms of Koenji, without being disapointed with production values and/or compositions? What about the remastered/re-recorded versions of their old albums?

  18. #18
    Member zravkapt's Avatar
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    ^Get Viva Koenji next. It will melt your mind.

  19. #19
    Member TheH's Avatar
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    The bands and Yohsidas best album. A bit more "serious" and also a bit jazzier than the earlier albums.
    Still have to get their DVDs.

    Would like another one from them soon!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Conti View Post
    Woderful record. I enjoy it immensely. I always wondered where to go next, but I'm never able to make a decision because I know this is their best produced album. So, where should I go next in terms of Koenji, without being disapointed with production values and/or compositions? What about the remastered/re-recorded versions of their old albums?
    There's only four. I would just say get them all! I have yet to get the redone Nivram but I've heard a lot of great things about that one. For Thousand Sights, either version is fine. The 2008 one is wilder though so I'd try to find that one (the original is tough to find these days anyway).

    Quote Originally Posted by progholio View Post
    this is thread is a good reminder that my collection is sorely lacking in Ruins.
    If you haven't got anything you may want to try the 1986-1992 anthology first - it's fairly available and really kicks ass. It's one noisy and hyper album but it really highlights a lot of the great early stuff. Ruins are amazing because their sound feels so completely full even though it's just two people. When I first heard Burning Stone I didn't know anything about the group and didn't realize there was no guitar until I played it again!

  21. #21
    I'm here for the moosic NogbadTheBad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zravkapt View Post
    ^Get Viva Koenji next. It will melt your mind.
    Love that album as well, great disc.
    Ian

    Gordon Haskell - "You've got to keep the groove in your head and play a load of bollocks instead"
    I blame Wynton, what was the question?
    There are only 10 types of people in the World, those who understand binary and those that don't.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by zravkapt View Post
    ^Get Viva Koenji next. It will melt your mind.
    Together with (Hoppy Kamiyama's) Optical 8's Bug from 1994, Viva Koenji is the most powerful album I heard from any of the Japanoise 90s acts. And that's saying something.

    One of my fave songs ever by them however, is "Molavena" from their S/T debut. It's probably also one of the most consistantly melodic things Yoshida has delivered:

    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

  23. #23
    Member TheH's Avatar
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    Don't forget the albums by this albums keyboard ladys band Le*Silo


  24. #24
    amazing enough they have 4 dvds...

    2002: Live at Star Pine's Cafe
    2006: Live at Doors
    2008: 070531
    2010: Live at Koenji High
    Live at Doors is the only one that is truly essential in my opinion

    And for anyone who loves Koenji but shy's away from Ruins do not pass Ruins - Symphonica in a way its a Koenji album in disguise

  25. #25
    I love this disc. Especially the song where the vocals sound like "No More Dead Fleas...No More Dead Fleas"

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