PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Nisennenmondai: Neji/Tori

These three Japanese women rumble with the best of them.


Nisennenmondai

Neji/Tori

Label: Smalltown Supersound
US Release Date: 2008-07-15
UK Release Date: 2008-07-28
Amazon
iTunes

Nisennenmondai, which refers to the Y2K bug, is the name of one of a number of Japanese girl-group noise bands that forms something of a specialised niche at home, though it’s yet to be widely recognized in the U.S. The whole Japanese noise scene, to tell the truth, is still somewhat mystifying -- OK, there was Boris, then there was OOIOO (another all-girl group), but turns out there are a bunch of other groups treading similar waters that are yet to be heard of at all over here. At least we have one more now, Nisennenmondai, a group that creates stoic architectural masses of instrumental sound treading somewhere between Lightning Bolt’s noise and Neu!’s Krautrock.

Himeno Sayaka, Zaikawa Yuri and Takada Masako met at a noise club while in university in 1999, but apart from a string of self-released EPs and various hand-pressed cassettes/CD-Rs, the group has not released a proper full-length, and has been difficult to source outside of Japan. Neji/Tori is a compilation of two previous EPs that serves as a good introduction to the band’s sound; the songs are stylistically similar enough that there’s no problem in sticking them alongside one another.

While the group’s early reputation was built off of the intensity of their live performances, that’s only occasionally illustrated in this recorded material. Or, maybe that’s just because I had the volume turned down low. The closest the group comes to illustrating their wild live side may be “Kyuukohan”. For 20 seconds two minutes in they lose it completely, pummeling drums and guitars in overdriven fury. The rest of the song is an extended build-up to the second freak-out, which lasts twice as long and is deepened and made even more satisfying with waves of distortion and fuzzy, wave-like effects. In general, though, Neji/Tori finds the drums/bass/guitar trio rumbling patiently away, often refusing to crescendo across a whole song. In this the group may be more interested in texture and atmosphere than in individual songs, which is to be expected for a noise group.

Though groups like No Age, Titus Andronicus and Battles form the noise-pop landscape into which Nisennenmondai will be placed, the Japanese group is more ascetic than any of these essentially pop-oriented groups. The band’s got a song on here called “Sonic Youth” and, OK, there’s that influence going on, especially with regard to Sonic Youth’s live material, messier and more passionate than some of the recordings. But remember, these songs are messy, repetitive instrumental jams. There’s little by way of melody, and melody’s hardly the point. The hardest-hitting songs are in the five- to eight-minute length, and they fill their length with 16th-note hi-hats and distorted fuzz. “Kyuukohan”, an easy disc highlight, opens with stately, bell-like guitar strums that quickly become rattling, off-the-rails chaos.

One constant of Nisennenmondai’s sound is Zaikawa Yuri’s understated but constant bass groove. It’s here that the group earns its Can and Neu! comparisons, These riffs are often obscured by the guitar noise over the top, but provide a foundation for these songs, which helps to explain how they come to feel so solid compositionally. Though the core of the group’s sound is built off repetition, the songs are easily differentiated; for example, “Ikkkyokume” separates itself from the opening of “Kyuukohan” (though both have similar mid-tempo drum attacks) through vocal “Ah”s and a bent guitar. The band gets it especially right on what was originally Tori -- the aggression seems tighter-knit, more concentrated. On the other hand, that messiness at the start (on “Pop Group” and “This Heat”), where you’re not sure if a track is beginning or ending -- or disintegrating -- has its own attraction.

As an introduction to Nisennenmondai, and/or a step into the shadowy world of Japanese noise music, Neji/Tori is easily a success. It’s neither overly commercial nor overly cerebral. But I guess that the true measure of the group still requires a live setting, in which three diminutive Japanese women step up and pummel your innocent ears out. That would be something to see.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.