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Destined: Nisennenmondai

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Mark Davis learned Japanese to interview Tokyo's hottest all-girl punk trio, Nisennenmondai.

Destined: Nisennenmondai

Download "Pop Group" by Nisennenmondai.

I have no argument against the recent dearth of attention paid to the noisy girl groups of Kansai. I too spent much of 2005 relishing the steady stream of stellar releases from western Japan. Last year saw solid domestic releases from Limited Express (Has Gone) front-woman Blue Yukari’s new band, Ni Hao!, Osaka-based noise darlings Afrirampo (Destined ’05 alums), and Yoshimi’s all girl group OOIOO, just to name a few. But what about Tokyo? What about the California Dolls? What about the bands that gather at Enban? And, dang nabbit, what about the relentless circular rumblings of Nisennenmondai?

Though still little known here, Nisennenmondai quickly built a reputation in Tokyo over the last few years, based largely on the intensity of their live show and two self-released EPs. A favorite of Japanese bloggers, the band was also featured in Tower Records weekly publication Bounce in 2004 and have shared the stage with the likes Yoshida Tatsuya, Lightning Bolt, Hella, Kawabata Makoto, the Oshiripenpens, and Afrirampo. Their driving rhythm section and metallic guitar sound something like an ungodly and hypnotic amalgamation of Boredoms, Neu!, Can, and a (pardon me) cuter version of Ruins circa 1986-7.

Himeno Sayaka (drums), Zaikawa Yuri (bass) and Takada Masako (guitar) met, of all places, at the same music club at university in Tokyo. After quickly becoming friends the obvious next step was to form a band, and Nisennenmondai was born. Their name, the Japanese manifestation of the English term “Y2K bug,” was bestowed by friends for no reason other than its buzz word status at the time. The name stuck though, and its ominous nature suits the rumbling sound of the trio just fine. “And we like it because it really seems to confuse foreigners,” Takada noted with a chuckle.

From the beginning, the band’s creative process has proven a group effort. Songs grow out of ideas hit upon during impromptu sessions. As far as where these ideas come from, Masako has commented in the past that her generation doesn’t look at influences the same way as they might have in past generations; that “roots” prove somehow less important now. Certainly that is not the case stateside, where so much of the music produced feels derivative: nothing more than turned up, fuzzed out, or angularized versions of something that came out 20 or even just five years ago. One might be tempted to declare such comments artistic posturing, but the fresh sounds coming out of Japan’s noise scene say no, this is genuine. Watch Himeno pound on the drums in person: any illusions of attempted imitation will disappear along with your eardrums.

I asked Takada anyway about groups that might have influenced Nisennenmondai directly, and she skirted the question: “Certainly there are bands that have influenced us, but nobody who I could say ‘this is the one.’ Really, the band that influenced us the most was a group of older kids in the music club. They were so good, so we just tried to imitate them, and that’s how we ended up sounding like this. Though we failed miserably at actually sounding like them.” Judging from their recordings, the reaction to Nisen’s September tour of the US, and the picture of them with Haino Keiji they posted on their blog last night, that failure is nothing to worrying about.

Read more facts, figures, and diary entries by Nisennenmondai at www.nisennenmondai.com.

By Mark G. Davis

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