Exposé print issues (1993-2011)
Koenjihyakkei — Nivraym Revisited
(Skin Graft GR147, 2023, CD / LP / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2023-02-14
To my mind, Koenjihyakkei’s Dhorimvishka was one of the highlights of 2018, and stood as the band’s crowning achievement to that point. The previous albums were all excellent, but Dhorimvishka really solidified and refined their high-energy variation of the zeuhl style, and presented a superbly coherent and talented lineup of musicians. Now leader Tatsuya Yoshida has revisited one of the band’s earlier releases and applied lessons learned to the material. Nivraym originally came out in 2001 and seemed like a really fine album at the time, so what could be accomplished by returning to it? Listening to these new tracks back-to-back with the originals reveals the answer: Nivraym Revisited sounds fuller, crisper, and all-around even more impressive than the original, or even the 2009 remaster. Yoshida chose to integrate the band’s current lineup into the tracks at strategic places, so the 2001 band — Yoshida (drums, vocals), Kengo Sakamoto (bass, vocals), Jin Harada (guitar), Kenichi Oguchi (keyboards), and Nami Sagara (vocals) — are joined on some tracks by members of the 2020 band — Keiko Komori (soprano sax), Taku Yabuki (keyboards), and AH (vocals). The newcomers aren’t present on all tracks, and Yoshida has carefully decided where to augment the arrangements so as to enhance the music rather than obscure anything. The addition of Komori’s sax in particular really makes the melodies stand out, and adds yet another level of complexity to what is already ridiculously complex music. Not for the faint of heart, Koenjihyakkei’s art pushes the drama and rhythmic invention of Magma to a level of manic intensity that is sometimes difficult to comprehend. As you listen, you’re aware that what you hear was created by human beings, but the precision and unrelenting energy seem beyond the realm of what is possible. Yoshida and company take some of the qualities of math rock and technical metal into a unique and eccentric place that no other band inhabits (with the possible exception of some of Yoshida’s other projects). To be clear, this is Frank Zappa level composition and arrangement applied to a very different style of music than Zappa ever ventured into. As such, it will likely be polarizing for listeners: some will be fascinated by the sheer audaciousness of the sound, while others will be left cold by the relentless displays of technique and lack of understandable lyrics. Count me in the former group. One question likely on the minds of many Koenjihyakkei fans is whether they need another version of an album they already own, and to them I would say, “Absolutely yes!” In many ways this is a new album, based on the old one but much improved, and well worth owning.
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