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Nisennenmondai - Destination Tokyo

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Artist: Nisennenmondai

Album: Destination Tokyo

Label: Smalltown Superjazz

Review date: Aug. 28, 2009

Dusted accorded destiny upon Nisennenmondai in 2006, based upon the punk trio’s early, ecstatic EPs. Precision-rockers like Battles and Hella spread the gospel after sharing shows on overseas visits. Now, they’ve finally recorded an LP for their American admirers. And at just four songs, each hovering around the 10-minute mark, Destination Tokyo feels more like a peek than a coming-out party. How many times can an appetite whet itself?

Despite titles like "Disco" and "Mirrorball," it’d be disingenuous to call anything here dance music. "Disco" has a bobbing octave bass and Yuri Zaikawa slaps some strings on "Mirrorball," but the songs eschew the groove. The first two are a few heartbeats too fast, and latter two space out. Throughout the 40-plus minutes, Nisennenmondai treat notes like squares on a matrix.

So it starts like a relentless and unswinging form of funk, akin to On The Corner. Masako Takada restricts her guitar to alien tones – like scrapes on a viola or the round buzz of a calliope. If anything takes the lead here, it’s Sayaka Himeno’s hi-hat. It chatters like a hubcap that’s escaped it’s rim, but won’t stop spinning on the ground. Unlike The Corner, there’s no malevolent drill sergeant here. Each member of the trio adds layers in turn. It aggregates into a cheerful, noisy clockwork.

Suppleness, if not swing, arrive on the second half. Takada’s guitar uncoils and ups the reverb. Here’s an example: The tempo and changes during this live performance of "Mirrorball" line up pretty exactly with the studio take. If Destination Tokyo gives the impression these women like to improvise, don’t be fooled. Their reps are meticulously plotted.

For all their discipline, Nisennenmondai still manage to cast a spell -- if not on the audience, then definitely on themselves. That’s the best explanation for how such long counts and strict tempos continue to breathe with life.

By Ben Donnelly

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