These guys are fucking AMAZING.
October 25, 2013 9:14 PM   Subscribe

Kiyohiko Senba is a composer who’s been likened to Zappa for his ambition, talent, madness, and virtuosity, but his music is considerably easier to get into. Get ready, because his large-scale orchestra project, Kiyohiko Senba and the Haniwa All-Stars, is about to blow your goddamn mind.

Let's start simple and ramp up. Hohai Bushi sounds a bit like an Ennio Morricone composition but with more electric guitar. Taiikusai is so heartfelt, yearning, and soaring that I cried when it got to the climax. They cover both Franz Schubert’s “Standchen" and Dusty Springfield’s “You Don’t To Say You Love Me” in ways that are all kinds of awesome. But the real treasure for me is this one, which begins with them playing the Village People’s “YMCA” but then transitions into Daimeiwaku, a freaking phenomenal good original piece that sounds – I don’t know how else to describe it – like James Brown and John Philip Sousa decided to play Katamari Damacy together and had a really good time. (With some klezmer and Leonard Bernstein thrown in there too, for good measure.) But wait! There’s




A WHOLE SECOND SENBA/HANIWA PROJECT FOR YOU TO LISTEN TO.

Haniwa-chan is a smaller-scale band that possesses the same kind of energy, whimsy, and loveliness that makes the Haniwa All-Stars such an entertaining listen. Like with the All-Stars, Haniwa-chan’s modus operandi is to blend genres and hit unusual pockets of music without sacrificing listenability or pure wild joy.

So when their album Kanashibari opens with a big, juicy stadium riff, it’s maybe no surprise that it mixes its loud crunchy sound up with some orchestral stings and a couple of awesomely groovy banjo* lines. And when Owannaino’s hushed, urgent haunted-house sound abruptly explodes into a loud, rock opera climax, it’s just about par for the course.

Minato, my favorite one of theirs, goes from a charming little dance number to a hilariously demented chorus that sounds like it came right out of Banjo-Kazooie. Asobi’s layers of warm synth goodness culminate in a high note that’s one of the more satisfying things I’ve ever heard in a song, period.

Tatami Hoppeta is the sort of rollicking good time you can only get when your clarinetist is having as much fun as your percussionist. Ie is… you know what, at this point I’m comfortable saying Ie is a difficult song to describe without letting you down too much. It’s beautiful, tender, and catchy, and more than a little bit strange. Maybe you are noticing a pattern here.

Fans of the All Stars’ Taiikusai will probably also like the Haniwa-chan variation it originated as. Less grand, more folky, still a whole lot of fun.



HOLD YOUR MANY HORSES! There's still more of the Haniwa All-Stars to explore!

Mizu, which I cut from the main post for length reasons, is a longer, jazzier song, not quite as manic as some of the All-Stars’ music but very energetic and enjoyable all the same.

And are you a fan of Jun Togawa, the twisted Kate Bush-meets-Mike Patton genius that I’ve written about on the blue previously? She does two collaborations with the All-Stars, each with her usual delightful amount of theatricality. Princess Knight is a shorter, poppier march of a number, and Human Pass** opens up with the Pachelbel’s Canon allusion that’s in some ways Togawa’s signature number – before opening up into a darker, more dramatic number with a very exciting accordion solo for those of you that like such things.

While this post mostly focuses on the Haniwa All-Stars live performances, it would be foolish not to point out how well-made their studio album Haniwa is. The cleanness of the production really brings out how manic and brilliant their music is. Chānomi Tomodachi Suresure and Mokka no Sakebi are the typical levels of lush and wacky, and Yōyaku I Love You is a slower ballad—albeit with a couple hints of a more circus-y vibe, to be fair. The entire album can be streamed from Grooveshark, if you feel so inclined.

As for Kiyohiko Senba himself, here’s a video of him playing an unsurprisingly fantastic drum solo. The rest of the All-Star percussionists come in to back him up halfway through. You might also like this jam he did with the breakbeat duo Hifana. He’s composed the music for an anime called Bamboo Blade, which I know nothing about. Perhaps somebody else can help me fill in here?



OKAY THAT'S ALL FOR NOW.

I hope you find as much joy in this music as I do. Happy listenings!

*Probably this is not a banjo, but my Japanese instrument vocabulary sucks. A shamisen maybe?

**According to Google Translate.
posted by Rory Marinich (24 comments total) 117 users marked this as a favorite

 
One last thing!

I didn’t want to include this in the post proper, because it is not necessarily related to Senba’s music groups, and also because it’s fascinating enough to deserve some stand-alone attention. I was debating making this into an FPP on its own. But this is a video of Senba and a couple of musicians scoring a Charlie Chaplin short, using a more traditional Japanese sound to complete change the tone and timbre of the short from what you usually think of Chaplin’s movies being. Really interesting stuff.

And all credit+a ton of thanks has to go to Bangaioh, who wrote me a few months ago to tell me about Senba/Haniwa-Chan, which was what triggered my obsession/descent into funky, funky madness.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:35 PM on October 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


wow
posted by philip-random at 11:12 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there a Post of The Month contest going on that nobody told me about?
posted by KingEdRa at 11:28 PM on October 25, 2013


OH MAAAAAAAAN. YES. Okay, so first: Worth mentioning that Senba was a founding member of T-Square, who themselves are one of the craziest/best bands of all time, in my humble (and totally not open for negotiation) opinion.

Running in the, uh... circles I do -- let's say I'm.. um... friends with a lot of Japanese rock/pop/anime/game music obsessive types -- I have been exposed to a lot of Senba's solo and ensemble work, and he's been a huge influence on my own compositional style; his wit and sense of absurdity really hit home, and I think your comparison to Zappa (another of my favorites) makes sense. That spark of insanity is unmistakable!

Generally speaking, I find that versatility and fearless genre exploration are the traits I most admire in composers; Senba, Zappa, Yoko Kanno, BT, they can adapt to many and varied kinds of music, and sound as authentic as artists who are full-time focused on each one. But more importantly, they also combine them into entirely new genres which defy categorization, and that's the REALLY crazy part.

Anyway, there is a lot of stuff here I hadn't heard, so thank you for the incredibly rich post. I've been killing myself trying to hit a ridiculous music deadline all week (Arabic melodic electro house music this time, if you can believe it), and I badly needed a break / recharge. Can't imagine anything more motivational than this, seriously made my night.
posted by jake at 11:37 PM on October 25, 2013


Mind Blown! and nurses?! Pajamas?!! Davy Crockett with fringe pajamas??!1
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:40 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


seriously want to blather and run about the the house slavering in a lather YOW
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:43 PM on October 25, 2013


HOLY SHIT
posted by louche mustachio at 12:26 AM on October 26, 2013


like James Brown and John Philip Sousa decided to play Katamari Damacy together and had a really good time

Minus the James Brown, surely. There are no hamhocks in that band's cornflakes...

(Honestly, strikes me as an even more "crowd-pleasy" Willem Breuker Kollektief gone mainstream kinda thing.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:47 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really liked Owannaino, Minato and Tatami Hoppeta.
great post, I'm going to have to keep an eye on Senba.
always love to learn of a new artist.
posted by quazichimp at 2:20 AM on October 26, 2013


GREAT POST!

Thank you SO MUCH for this... as with others, mind blown. No words for this, and that's how music ought to be.
posted by kinnakeet at 3:30 AM on October 26, 2013


Wow

that first piece - like I don't know. Nina Hagen's voice maybe. What a great post. Thanks heaps.
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 3:51 AM on October 26, 2013


I was ready to be meh - I scanned what appeared to be hyperbole for 'awesomes' and then clicked your links.

It really is fucking amazing, dare I say, really fucking awesome.
posted by a non e mouse at 4:12 AM on October 26, 2013


Well there goes my evening. This is astounding - post and subject - thank you so much.
posted by freya_lamb at 5:50 AM on October 26, 2013


I knew there had to be something out there, the likes of which I'd never heard before. THANK YOU.
posted by orme at 7:44 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is insane and wonderful.
posted by naju at 9:04 AM on October 26, 2013


I couldn't find a video of it, but that live concert also included a performance of "Strange Fruit" at one point.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:08 AM on October 26, 2013


i feel like i just ate an okonomiyaki with my ears.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 9:41 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Put off a bit by the editorializing by the OP, but gotta say, that first link; Hohai Bushi is one of the greatest things I've heard in a while, but then I'm a big Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Willem Brueker, Globe Unity Orchestra fan. Thanks for the introduction to this group.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 10:21 AM on October 26, 2013


Holy shit, this is absolutely breathtaking. I literately signed up for an account here just to say that! I

REALLLY fucking amazing!
posted by askaway12 at 10:32 AM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


OK I take back my reservations about your enthusiasm for this guy. Mizu is in reality fucking awesome. What a joyful mashup of energy from so many different directions.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 11:49 AM on October 26, 2013


I'm just gob-smacked, Thank you so much!
posted by cleroy at 12:02 PM on October 26, 2013


Entertainingly eclectic, but not quite mindblowing for me, but maybe I was prepared for it by consuming a lot of Tomoyuki Tanaka's Fantastic Plastic Machine ten years ago, and the biggest head-asploder for me was hearing Jonathan Winters' voice drop-ins in "Mr. Salesman". Still, you gotta love an orchestra in polka-dot pajamas.

And I feel sadly obligated to point out that 'when their album Kanashibari opens with a big, juicy stadium riff', that riff is based on the hook from Deep Purple's "My Woman from Tokyo", as if to specifically point out the J-Pop-ness of the vocals and distract from the rest of the wonderfully mixed elements.

Still, I do certainly appreciate anybody like Kiyohiko Senba who can skillfully mix together so many diverse musical influences without making it a VitaMix audio puree (I like my music chunky!)
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:31 PM on October 26, 2013


Haniwa-chan live (audio only, unfortunately) playing a few tracks from Kanashibari and a couple of non-album others.
posted by Bangaioh at 2:24 PM on October 26, 2013


I just am not at all sure why they didn't dress as parasitic crustaceans....
posted by eggtooth at 5:17 PM on October 26, 2013


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