Top 20 Releases of 2013: No.11 – Nisennenmondai – N

N

CD, Bijin Record, 2013

Nisennenmondai are in the admirable position of being both an intensely desirable band with numerous overseas tours behind them and support slots for a number of high profile touring bands (most recently the UK’s Savages), and also being able to do pretty much whatever they want, keeping close control over their own recording output and largely able to pick and choose which shows they play domestically. From their raucous, anarchic beginnings in the mid-2000s, new album N sees the trio’s sound honed down beyond the bare bones, right to the pulsating marrow.Nisennenmondai: A (live)

To the point actually where you could argue that all three tracks on N are essentially the same, but then given that the band have titled them simply A, B-1 and B-2, they’re obviously meant to be taken as part of a piece, with N really best considered a coherent whole rather than a collection of tracks. And N as a whole, is a relentless but strangely low-key spacerock disco, all tracks in the twelve-fourteen minute zone, giving them time to build up to something just short of a climax before fading away into something else. Guitarist Masako Takada is becoming more adept year by year at creating textures and soundscapes, while Yuri Zaikawa is a man-machine on bass, making more than you’d imagine possible out of her different ways of playing the same note over and over again.

It’s also the best job Nisennenmondai have ever done of making what they do work on record. Perhaps the way they have jettisoned the more explosive elements of their music and honed their sound down to this tense, taut, jittery trance beat (Can you have a jittery trance? Apparently yes!) creates fewer challenges than capturing the raw energy of the band’s earlier material. Instead N comes over as a piece of dance music, more level and consistent in the mix, less prone to wild changes in sound levels and tempo. Fans of the band’s blistering early material may miss some of that energy, but what they’ve left behind in that regard, they’ve gained in terms of focus.Nisennenmondai: B-2 (live)

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Top 20 Releases of 2013: No.11 – Nisennenmondai – N

  1. Puzzle

    ……. having been to your site so many times over the last few weeks, thought it was time to make a comment! I didn’t really expect to like this one, but I definitely do. Reminds me of Can, with less Voodoo in the drums and the bass mixed way more forward — but Czukay didn’t play many notes, either, remember. (The other band I’ve liked most out of this list-so-far is Umiuma.)
    I’ve been reading a lot of Japanese fiction (in translation, that is) the past few years, but have been without a computer from 2010 until last summer, so I’d not found much music from those parts outside of Yoko Kanno, Puffy and Shonen Knife. I’d certainly come across oddities in thriftshops along the way — TiroleantapeChapter4, Manish, Suekichi, Kahoru Kobiruimaki, Takako Minekawa ….. just enough to get me fascinated and confused.
    Stumbling across your recommendation of the Hearsays was what turned me in to regular reader. Since then it’s been one hit after another: Sayuu (brilliant), Momoiro Clover Z (makes being young sound almost like a good thing), Miu Mau, Hyacca (them, I had heard of), and now Seiko Oomori, wonderful stuff.
    I shall be hanging around for more.

    • Thanks for the comment. And yeah, I’m pretty sure Nisennenmondai have a solid appreciation of all things kraut. Man, that list of oddities are, well, I’ve never heard of any of them apart from Takako Minekawa (whose gig I DJed at a couple of weeks ago actually). Glad you’re digging my recommendations anyway (especially Hyacca since my label releases all their stuff, heh). There’s still my top ten of last year to get through as well.

      • Puzzle

        ….. ah, another ten to find from last year? good. As for the oddities — it can take ages for stuff to filter down into the thrifts, I think all four are from the 90s.
        Manish was a power-ballad girl duo who went on to do a lot of anime themes, I believe.
        TiroleantapeChapter4 is a hoot: led by a female piano player (as opposed to pianist), looting the late 50s and early 60s — rockabilly, doo-wop, Stax, Brill Building …. — at very high tempo with a great sense of humor.
        Kahoru Kobiruimaki sang r&b-type stuff, largely written by her (produced with Masami Tsuchiya, if that means anything?), some great melodies. Her voice sounds quite different from most Japanese singers I’ve heard, seems to be shaped where an Anglophone would speak from, but that may just be the genre.
        Suekichi, “Tokyo Black-Light Boxing” ….. all over the map. Dreadlocked stoner who sings, plays some keyboards but was probably a drummer to start with, I’d guess. Cod-mystic (with a finger-cymbal player named Barbie Mako), metal, noise, an unwise attempt to get funky ….. and at least one of his collaborators had been listening to Magma. It grows on you, I rather like it.
        Oh — the other band I forgot to mention is Hikashu , who seem to have crossed Ohio over time — starting out as Devo and turning into Pere Ubu. Neat trick.

      • Hikashu are probably my favourite Japanese band ever. Koichi Makigami is a god and even thinking about what he’s contributed to music in Japan makes me want to cry tears of joy. What. A. Fucking. Band!

        I know Masami Tsuchiya a bit. He was in Ippu-Do who did the classic 80s hit Sumire September Love. I met him and interviewed him about a different project and he was a super-nice dude, really smart, intelligent and focussed about music. I liked him a lot.

  2. Puzzle

    … I think we’re on the same page here, because I put “Hikashu”in the same sentence as “Pere Ubu” very soon after I first ran across them, and if we’re speaking of favorites, it’s UbuPapa for me. Just watched the Hikashu video with a Big Band, horn section & accordion & all, great stuff.
    I’m fascinated to see where your top 10 takes us, it’ll all be new to me.

    • Yeah, my first thought was Pere Ubu as well. When I interviewed Koichi Makigami, he described his music as ‘pataphysic pop after Alfred Jarry, the guy who wrote the Ubu plays, so I guess both bands are coming from similar places philosophically. Apparently Yuya Uchida, who was the big daddy of the Japanese rock scene in the 70s, when he first heard Hikashu said they were like The Mothers of Invention, which makes sense to me as well.

  3. Puzzle

    Mothers does (do?) make sense. By the way, I’ve just listened to the ZZZs (I notice Momoiro Clover Z uses the “Zedo” pronounciation, I’m guessing this lot says “Zee”?), and no wave is right — one track starts out like it’s lifted from the first Golden Palominos album — but then it becomes clear that Anton Fier’s mad testosterone gallop isn’t going to happen. I saw him once, his drum stool had what looked like a big old triangular motorcycle seat, which made a lot of sense — lots of leg freedom but solid support in the … peritoneal area, shall we say. Drum rider. Macho was the only word.
    And not to sound too musicological, but I followed what I thought was a Magma influence on one track of Suekichi’s album (from 1995) and discovered Tatsuya Yoshida, so that explained that. Wow.
    That wobblywideweb comes in handy when you work it properly.

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