Any band that has ties to Ruins is bound to be absolutely apeshit. For Koenjihyakkei, the ongoing project of Ruins drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, that certainly holds true. But the Japanese prog rock outfit may not be on the same level of apeshit that Ruins is. While that Far Eastern drum and bass duo have more in common with the likes of Lightning Bolt and Mr. Bungle, the big K borrows more from the art rock era of the ’70s, playing operatic prog with absolutely insane mathematics and mind-melting arrangements.
Koenjihyakkei’s name translates into “Hundred Sights of Koenji,” and each hallucinatory and bizarre track on their latest album, Angherr Shisspa is bound to conjure up at least one hundred sights. Their fourth album in 11 years, Angherr Shisspa is one of the strangest things to happen to rock music. Jumping back and forth between diva-tastic vocal exercises, jazz jams, noise rock guitar solos and pounding art rock, Koenjihyakkei veer all over the map, crashing fantastically at every major landmark. While a track such as “Tziidall Raszhisst” pounds and crashes and freaks out, “Rattims Friezz” sounds, at times, almost like Stereolab or Sufjan Stevens’ jazzier compositions. And every track has shades of Yes and Queen, as well as King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
All of this said, none of this could possibly be pulled off without stunningly precise musicianship, which every member of KH possesses in spades. I can only imagine what kind of muscle spasms Yoshida has the day after one of their gigs, though the same can be said of Ruins performances. Even listening to the spastic time-shifts and bursts of energy on Angherr Shisspa leaves one exhausted. And enduring the entire 50 minutes is only for truly brave souls. But those willing to venture into its mighty weirdness will be treated to some of the most boldly original and unbelievably strange music ever.
Encapsulating the wide expansive of odd and exciting music in one review probably isn’t possible, but what can be said is that you should expect something that is really out there. Noiseniks, music students, jazz fans and D&D players should all be in heaven when they hear this head-spinning combination of sounds. This is what the apocalypse must sound like.
Magma – Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh
Area – Arbeit Macht Frei
Melt Banana – Scratch or Stitch
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.