Nisennenmondai is to rock music what the ‘Y2K’ bug was to technological Armageddon. Since Masako Takada (guitar), Yuri Zaikawa (bass) and Sayaka Himeno (drums) playfully named themselves after the computer bug eleven years ago, their DIY-enthused blend of Krautrock and No Wave continues to rattle and shake the foundations of the very music that influenced them. Like Japan’s vibrant and prolific experimental musicians of the 1970s age, Nisennenmondai have become one of the most popular exports among a new wave of Japanese musicians pushing boundaries like The Boredoms, Boris, or Bo Ningen.
Nisennenmondai’s tight, pounding rhythm section can go from the pulses of a discotheque to the enveloping swathes of Psychedelia. As Himeno’s hard-hitting drumming holds pattern and Zaikawa’s bass lines lock in, Masako employs her effector palette to morph her guitar into either distorted tones or hypnotizing loops and glitches. Indeed, successive European tours and large-festival appearances following the 2008 re-release of Tori/Neji have proven nothing gets lost in translation with a rhythmic barrage that is as hypnotic as it is intense. Yet with their tight sequential arrangements this disco inferno is carefully balanced with the band’s acute sense of restraint.
At its core, Nisennenmondai is visceral, rigorously focusing and channeling the players’ instincts in composing and performing. The members never even bothered naming their songs until their manager suggested it back in 2004 before pressing their first record, Sorede Souzousuru Neji<i/>, on their own Bijin imprint. While song names like “Sonic Youth” and “Pop Group” may demonstrate a tributary gesture, the trio has shed its revivalist skin. A keen listen to their latest effort, Live 2011 demonstrates a band that’s maintained its intensity and sense of progression, as Masako unveils the keyboard as a lead instrument on new songs. Today, Nisennenmondai has outgrown comparisons to Western bands. With its own distinctive and viral sound, the band has become a document of its own era.