The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


N Julian Marszalek , September 19th, 2014 12:50

There are times when what the ears hear doesn't always square up with what the eyes see. Take, for example, the case of Ed Milliband every time he pops up on the TV. While the ears take in the usual well rehearsed platitudes written by a team of script writers who doubtless work in tandem with a focus group whose results are all significant at the 5% level as determined by Spearman's rank correlation coefficient, the eyes refuse to accept that this is a future prime minister. No, what they see is one of Nick Park's plasticine models made flesh that'll give us another five years of coalition bullshit.

Another case in point is Tokyo trio Nisennenmondai. The group, made up of guitarist Masako Takada, bassist Yuri Zaikawa and drummer Sayaka Himeno, delivered one of the stand-out sets at this year's OFF Festival in Poland with a collection of material that damn well defied the relationship between eyes and ears. In the sweaty confines of the Experimental Stage, a tent so rammed that the crowd spilled out in all directions, the band produced a set of pumping, throbbing and relentless techno, the kind of which that wouldn't have sounded out of place on the Dragonfly label back in the day, using a conventional rock band set up. What made the whole thing so remarkable was that it was created without the use of sequencers but by innate human rhythms and a strict and watertight sense of timing.

It's precisely this approach that makes N, Nisennenmondai's fourth album, so notable. This is music rooted in the tightest of rhythms – propulsive, repetitive and urgent – so the margin for error has to be non-existent. And so it proves as Zaikawa and Himeno lock together to create an entirely new and formidable entity. Over the course of three tracks – 'A', 'B-1' and 'B-2' – Nisennenmondai have created insistent, almost anxious music, that whilst murderous in its intensity, turns genres inside out as it displays a humanity that refuses to fall over. Over the top of these teeth-grinding rhythms is the incredible guitar work of Masako Takada that pushes, pulls and floats in and out of a phalanx of mind-boggling effects to create sound collages that colour and temper the work of her cohorts.

N is an album less concerned with melody than it is with its trance-inducing qualities and this is one of its main strengths. Nisennenmondai challenge pre-conceived notions of not only what instrumentation can do but also flip things entirely on their head to forge a new sensibility from traditional musical tools. This is music that beguiles and enchants, hypnotises and seduces, takes you into your consciousness and shoots you out of it. Crucially, this is music you can dance to.

Dive in – your mind and feet deserve it.