[CD Review] Nisennenmondai, 'Neji/Tori' (Smalltown Supersound)

Want to know who influenced Nisennenmondai? Read the Japanese trio’s song titles. “Pop Group,” “This Heat” and “Sonic Youth” are among the instrumentals on the cult, all-girl outfit’s Neji EP, paired here with the Tori EP for the band’s first release outside their homeland. This isn’t some copycat homage, though, and each of those tracks definitely sounds more like Nisennenmondai than its eponym. In fact, the band’s driving, almost-punishing groove is minimal and cyclical enough to safely couch the players’ original inspirations.

Despite the ostensibly rigid confines of a vocalless three-piece, guitarist Masako Takada, bassist Yuri Zaikawa and drummer Sayaka Himeon manage to wring a lot of variation and emotion out of their dynamic, genre-teasing exercises. Aside from brief detours into jazz and dub terrain, the overall sound is more postpunk than postrock, as when persistent stabs of guitar intersect with cymbal-heavy drumming and rangy bass on “Kyuukohan.” That song marks the start of Tori, a weirder and more evolved record than Neji. The dreamy open spaces and punky abandon of “Kyaaaaaaa” conjure No Age a bit, though its seven minutes could easily encompass three of that LA duo’s songs.

No Age are among Nisennenmondai’s American admirers, as are Battles, Hella and Lightning Bolt, which collectively is an impressive vote of confidence. And listening to the trio’s deft, blistering, snaky tunes, there’s rarely reason to dissent. Likewise, it should come as no surprise that the trio have been working together for a solid decade. Increasingly over the course of Neji/Tori, the snappy and intuitive interplay of instruments comes to resemble old friends finishing one another’s sentences.

 
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