Music Reviews


Hundred Sights of Koenji

Skin Graft

A couple of years ago I had the eye-opening experience of seeing Japanese drumming auteur Yoshida Tatsuya’s show in Detroit as the drum-and-bass project Ruins. A mixture of progressive time changes and hardcore tempo, it was hard to believe a person could keep churning out these sounds and spitting out the occasional vocal yelp continuously for 45 minutes. It was as abrasive as it was fascinating, definitely the type of music you “experience” rather than “listen to.” Although Ruins and Koenjihyakkei are berthed from the same insane portion of Yoshida’s id, the greater confluence of influences that make up Koenjihyakkei make it feel somehow more accessible. Over the course of the disc’s 10 songs, Yoshida and his crew mine the familiar prog/hardcore structures, but throw in stoner metal (“Ioss”), Celtic circus music (“Yagonahh”), a solemn chant and organ (“Zoltan”) and even a potential theme to an R-rated Japanese version of Fantasia, if one is ever produced (“Ozone Falls”). As absurd as I’m sure all this sounds, two of the linking elements for all this disparate material are the group’s harmonized operatic vocals (you read that right) and the cartoonish ancillary instruments, like Fisher-Price cutting through the bludgeoning thunder of “Zhess” for a tiny two-note melody.

In today’s current avant-garde musical climate, this album fits in along-side acts like Lightning Bolt or Man Man, but what sets Hundred Sights of Koenji apart from these contemporaries is this album’s original release date back in 1994 (!) in Japan. Not only did it predict one of the more sonically rewarding genres of the ’00s, but it still remains distinctly ahead of its time. A must have for fans of the fringe.

Skin Graft:

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