The first time I heard Koenji Hyakkei I thought “Oh my god, what is this?!?!” and kind of lost my mind. It seemed like someone had invented a new spin on prog rock in the 1990s and I had just missed it during my teens. It was a while before I knew about Zeuhl or what it was, and how it wasn’t invented by a Japanese band in the 1990s but, rather by a French band in the 1970s. (As I should have expected it to have been! Duh!) I realize that this is probably very frustrating for a Magma fan to read, but I just didn’t get around to them; I had only read about them in a book and online a little bit, and didn’t make the connection until I read a review of a Koenji Hyakkei accusing them of ripping off Magma.
This record has basically everything I love about prog – and everything I love about Koenji Hyakkei – and virtually nothing I dislike about ’70s prog (sappy folk pop ballads!), with the notable exception of the production.
The music is extremely knotty for 1973 but still has enough melody that I feel like even those unfamiliar with the idea of Zeuhl could get into it (maybe).
I listened to this record on Google Play so I did not have access to the story but I actually kind of love that it’s sung in a fake language. Not only do syllables indeed match the rest of the music, but so many ’70s prog song lyrics have dated horribly in the intervening years. What’s great about a fake language is I don’t know how embarrassing the lyrics are! This is fantastic for me.
I do think the audio quality is not amazing even though I think I’m listening to a remaster. That’s one area in which Koenji Hyakkei has improved upon at least this Magma record, but that’s hardly Magma’s fault.
I am going to say this from a point of complete ignorance since I have never listened to another Magma record but, if this is their best record (and I’ve read that it is), it is yet another masterpiece in prog’s Annus mirabilis, 1973.
10/10 (rated out of ignorance)
PS: I bet most of you reading this think the very idea of this record is awful.