The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


nijimusi Bernie Brooks , January 30th, 2020 09:25

OOIOO’s latest transmission, nijimusi, is a joyous exposition of masters at work, says Bernie Brooks

The other night, full of flu and feverish, I couldn't sleep. Maybe not the most noteworthy occurrence, but not sleeping is unusual for me. For a while, two or three hours, I lay there in the dark, nearly drifting off, but every time I hit that sweet spot of dream-not-dream just before actually, properly knocking off, my vista would fade up to white. A dazzling, euphoric, searing white. My eyes would scramble themselves fully open, surveying the normal, comforting darkness of the room, my conscious mind unable or unwilling to slip fully into the welcoming, blissed-out oblivion my subconscious had created for it. I was unsettled by this inkling of a dream. What if my mind had seen it through? Listening to nijimusi, the new transmission from OOIOO, my thoughts keep drifting back to that bright annihilation, and I wonder, if it had a sound, would this be it?

It's been a while since OOIOO's last record, Gamel – nearly six years – but it doesn't really feel that long. Perhaps this has something to do with the odd, paradoxical, simultaneous compression and elongation of time that is a signature of the post-social-media age. Or maybe it's that as far as generators of pure creativity go, YoshimiO is nearly unparalleled, that each of OOIOO's sporadic releases are like batteries crammed with juice – enough to easily sustain their listeners until they see fit to make another. For the unfamiliar, YoshimiO is also known as Boredoms' Yoshimi P-We. OOIOO is her other band, but don't confuse that with lesser. Founded in 1995, OOIOO are a band every bit Boredoms' equal.

OOIOO's latest feels like something of a rebirth, like the completion of a cycle. nijimusi finds YoshimiO revisiting the groups puckish, experimental punk roots, with the band stripped back to the four-piece line-up of essentially every traditional rock band ever, but subverting and inverting those expectations at every turn. Though the music within can be aggressive, often boiling over, roiling and crashing as YoshimiO's vocals chatter, yelp, soar, chant, and generally explore every possible permutation of the human voice, it's never antagonistic. Even the album's opening, title track – essentially 49 seconds of hammering percussion, noise, and a variety of shrieks – somehow feels welcoming and bright rather than alienating. It careens into 'nijimu', a showcase for the band's new drummer, MISHINA, whose jazzy locomotive swing carries the track through to its abrupt, midpoint shift into a supremely funky journey to the outer reaches of the cosmos – the sound something like warm, serrated light.

nijimusi is a record full of showstoppers, but its standout track might just be the Allan Kaprow-esque 'walk for "345" minutes, while saying "Ah Yeah!" with a "Mountain Book" in one hand, until a shower of light pours down', an epic, rapturously psychedelic jam that repurposes and reinvents some elements of the band's back catalogue into a new masterclass on the build-up and release of tension. Here's a crew of real weirdos, perfectly in control of their abilities, flexing on the kids, daring them to do better. It could practically be a TED Talk. Really, that's nijimusi in a nutshell: a joyous exposition of masters at work. OOIOO are still unlike any other band I can think of. They are resolutely themselves.

As I write this, it's getting a bit late. The cold air outside is dry and buzzing. I work early, I should be getting to bed. Isn't it silly to be so worried about a dream? If it returns, I'd like to think I'll venture into it unafraid. I mean, it's not real, right? What's the worst that could happen? Honestly, though, having thought on it a bit, this whole dream thing would be a lot less foreboding – but no less strange – if OOIOO's ecstatic ruptures actually were the soundtrack.