Top 20 Releases of 2015: No.10– Nisennenmondai – N’

CD, bijin record, 2015

As I mentioned in my previous entry in this countdown, the growing use and mastery of the delay loop pedal feels like it’s had a crucial role in the fusion of rock and dance music, freeing up bands from the constraints of programmed beats and allowing an organic middle ground between a straighy-up band setup and the layered structures of techno.

In Japan, Uhnellys were the first band I ever saw to really make it work, and they remain the absolute masters of using delay pedals as instruments in their own right. However, after a shaky start, Nisennenmondai are now probably the most widely recognised loop-jockeys the country has on the world stage.

Nisennenmondai’s music over the past few years has really been a growing refinement of a single basic musical vision, each new release bringing them even closer to a single flat line, with the thrill emerging from the way they tease variation and texture out of ever more minimal raw material. On the two albums they released in 2015, however, there are hints that they may have taken their stripped-down death disco as far as it can go and through growing use of collaborators are looking for new routes down which to develop their sound.

N’ is basically a reworking of 2013’s N with the addition of two remixes by British producer Shackleton, while #N/A was made with legendary UK dub producer Adrian Sherwood. Of these the second is clearly the more ambitious, and probably the one that points the way most promisingly towards possible future developments for the band; however, it’s N’ that’s probably the more successful as a record, its place on the border between two phases of Nisennenmondai’s career benefitting from containing both the most refined, focused iteration of their one-note minimal disco, as well as from Shackleton’s relatively free hand in interpreting the tracks and taking them to new places.

As it stands, #N/A is an album interesting for the possibilities it hints at more than the destinations it actually reaches, and of the two records it could (should?) end up the more significant. However, as a powerful and finely honed document of where the band’s past few years of development have taken them, N’ rules the here and now.

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