Koenjihyakkei – Hundred Sights of Koenji (re-recorded, remixed version)

5 out of 5

Label: Skin Graft

Produced by: Hoppy Kamiyama

Uh, yes please, whatever this is. I mean, Ruins is absolutely there, given that this is another Tatsuda Yoshida project, but the operatic nature of this is definitely a way different way of channeling that band’s pummeling madness and ADD song construction; the Zeuhl-esque madeup language also links the two, but Aki Kubota’s controlled tones and singing are, again, very separate from the screaming / shouting variant used in Ruins. And then we get into jazz, and we get into klezmer. But Koenjihyakkei is still not, exactly, “easy” listening, and probably – given all those grinding, bass-heavy jams and the album’s very non-stop nature – will still sound like a splinter of ‘turn that down’-style chaos to many ears. But if you allow for some volume in your music, Hundred Sights of Koenji – the band’s debut, drums re-recorded and remixed by Yoshida for a release on Skin Graft – is my version of a party album: it is all groove; all good moments. The team vocals just layer in a sense of fun, but that’s on top of the joy felt in Kubota’s voice already, and the celebratory nature of all the compositions, which all feel like the score to some championship moment. This should / could get tiresome over forty-five minutes, but there are relative highs and lows built in, and even a full-on commercial jingle-esque break with the 2-minute Zhess as an aural cleanser before we dive back in.

I can’t speak to the original mix, but the Skin Graft version of this album is just gorgeous sounding: raw and full, it’s a live band in your speakers; there’s no sense of any replacement of the drums – it’s all seamless. Ruins has always been a group that’s more conceptually interesting than something that I get a jones to listen to; Koenjihyakkei would evolve from here towards a jazzier direction; but this first step, while probably closest (from this band’s discography) to the Ruins mentality, is a dream: all energy, all melody. Drive your friends crazy? Maybe. I’d say there’s a good percentage that will rather perk up and convert over to Yoshida worship.