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Zazen Boys III

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Album Review

Zazen Boys are a band of Japanese quality and predictability: they've got a reputation as experimenters and they live up to it. That sort of thing is usually popular with international audiences, and the fact that they are less known around the globe than Boris or Sigh should be ascribed to their distaste of radicalism — i.e. they don't forget about making their music listenable, even with all the Mike Patton-like excess they revel in. "Take Off" could qualify as heavy jazz (the Japanese way), but at the same time it's built around a single bass riff and follows the tradition of good, bluesy jamming (the Japanese way, again). Generally, the larger part of ZB sound is quite catchy, consisting of lounge, light jazz, funk, and even '80s pop ("Friday Night") — although coming from a very offbeat alternative universe version of '80s pop. But the band is keen on placing conventional pop arrangements in the most unconventional places of the songs, and when they don't do that, they regularly break out in dissonant lead sections; this is done by all the group members, but rarely simultaneously, so you usually get a combination of mellow pop sound and a crazy bass/guitar/drumfest or some very weird vocalizing, all sometimes on par with Yagi Michiyo. They also mess with the song structures sometimes, but that's not their main focus of interest. Generally, it's hard to say whether Zazen Boys are wacky progsters who use catchy melodies to lull listeners into a state of false security before messing with their minds, or just a rock band that can't control the desire to fool around with some über-jamming. However, the album definitely warrants multiple listens for people who prefer either approach, so it's a win either way.


Formed: 2003 in Tokyo, Japan

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Named after a form of Buddhist meditation, Zazen Boys first appeared as a side project of Japanese musician Mukai Shutoku, the guitarist/vocalist of alt-rock band Number Girl, as an opportunity for Mukai to express some of his more diverse and experimental musical urges at a time when his other band was riding the crest of its breakthrough into the mainstream. After Number Girl's demise he revived the project, taking them to new levels of critical and commercial success and proving a critical link...
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Zazen Boys III, Zazen Boys
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