Nisennenmondai, an all-female post-punk trio formed in Japan in 2007, takes major musical cues from mid-’70s Düsseldorf, early ’80s New York, and the slightest edge of UK post-punk from some period in between. To put these varied and diverse elements together would likely require a GPS and a time machine, but Nisennenmondai vision of an art-rock Pangaea is a creation all their own. On 2008’s Neji/Tori, the group paid explicit homage to their heroes, naming tracks “Sonic Youth,” “Pop Group” and “This Heat.” And, to be fair, it’s hard not to hear elements of these bands in their skronky, no wave dance grooves. With Destination Tokyo, the first proper full-length for the band, Nisennenmondai have taken those influences and made them into a jumping off point, toward which they delve into a thrilling and hypnotic blend of the bizarre and the accessible that’s danceable throughout.
Recorded in one take, Destination Tokyo is a fresh and agitated album that thrives on repetition, improvisation and nervous energy. It rocks, but it’s not exactly a rock album. It’s danceable, but not exactly a dance record either. What genre it falls under could very well be up for debate, but what isn’t is how great this album sounds. Spanning 44 minutes spread over only five tracks (and one of them is a minute-long interlude), Destination Tokyo is a monster. But it’s not a hulking, lumbering beast; no sir, it’s a boogie monster.
The confusingly titled “Ijen Urusuozuos” (actually written backward, so maybe reverse it?) opens with a metallic, rattling effect before being sliced with abrasive squeaks of guitar and furious hi-hat attacks. Once the throbbing, one-note bassline comes in, the song zooms at a steady pace, becoming a hypnotic tunnel of sound that constantly seems on the cusp of barreling into overdrive. “Disco,” in spite of its name, isn’t exactly Studio 54 fare, but a vicious repetition of dissonant, no wave guitar skronk and sinewy bass. That said, it’s pretty badass. “Mirrorball” builds a bit slower than the two epics that precede it (and the brief transition track “Miraabouru”), as Masako Takada’s guitar escalates and descends in a dizzying melodic loop that ultimately becomes the album’s most transcendent and beautiful quadrant. Yet the title track comes close; the most subdued track here, it’s rife with whistling sounds and gauzy synthesizer, while Takada’s guitar, surprisingly enough, maintains a pretty low-key presence.
In the past few years, Nisennenmondai has earned praise from the likes of Battles, No Age, Gang Gang Dance, Prefuse 73 and Hella, and it’s not hard to see why. Nisennenmondai make a beautiful sum out of some abrasive and fiery parts. It may stretch out for 44 minutes, but once it gets its hooks in you, it’s hard not to want to keep this going all night.
Tussle – Kling Klang
ESG – Come Away With ESG
Neu! – Neu!
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.