Nisennenmondai takes the No Wave jagged aesthetic and transforms into a dance-centric experience. This is the dance music every dance-rock band promised to make but never could. Incredibly physical every slight variation is a thing of beauty. On “Destination Tokyo” they reveal a duality. For the first half they have a frantic energy as the three of them manage to make the rough edges of sound into something beautiful through repetition, gradual change, and rhythms that verge on near collapse. Upon reaching the latter half of the album they smooth out the roughness of their sound moving into dreamier, krautrock-inspired grooves. Hence they maintain a semblance of balance throughout the album beginning with a harsh reality and ending the optimism of the imagined.
With the words “Destination Tokyo” (in fact the only words uttered on the entire album) they introduce one of the most abrasive pieces on the collection. “Souzousuru Neji” sounds like a bunch of machines got together and started jamming. The incredible level of skill and persistence necessary to maintain this energy is overwhelming. Dance music (at least the good stuff) tries to go for a trance-like feeling, the feeling that the music is essentially without beginning or end. By letting their work build up through a mixture of scratches and scrapes courtesy of Masako’s guitar, Nisennenmondai are able to achieve this transcendence. Her guitar provides only one element of the sound. Sayaka’s dedication to keeping an almost inhuman tempo with her drums is incredible, as is the slow move towards an ever-larger focus on the drum kit not only as a method of keeping rhythm but as an additional element to neatly reinforce the guitar work is ingenious. As equally important is Yuri’s bass work which provides a sense of drama towards the end right when their groove seems to reach its peak.
Following this up is the playful work of “Disco”. Here Yuri’s bass becomes the focal point as its insistence helps to add to the overall sense of tension. Not as noisy as “Souzousuru Neji” it is still more hysterical than anything most bands could hope to muster. The precision is particularly notable on here. Masako’s guitar work ends up servicing the overall groove on here as she explores industrial and noise rock conventions through the trio’s focus on dance-structures. At times Masako’s guitar at times feels reminiscent of James Chance’s saxophone work for it possesses that same confrontational spirit. “Miraabouru” marks the album’s shift into lighter structures. By impersonating the following song and pitching their voices upwards they present a neat little respite from the previous two track’s controlled chaos.
“Mirrorball” starts off with Sayaka’s slashing of the cymbals. With the song’s bloom comes a lighter sound. The exploration of otherworldly textures by Masako is supported by the casual groove provided by Yuri’s bass. On “Mirrorball” they emphasize aiming for the sky and reaching the stars. Elements of psychedelic imagery are used throughout the song. For a grand conclusion is the low-slung summery vibes of the title track “Destination Tokyo”. Considering the amount of distortion, chaos, and general madness of the previous tracks “Destination Tokyo” feels downright triumphant. Masako has completely shifted her guitar away from the abrasive, No Wave sound into something that should be the soundtrack for anyone traveling. The rhythms are perfect consistent and steady. Even the playfulness of the song itself is so sweet and gentle. In short it is the perfect ending to what is often an intense aural experience.
Nisennenmondai’s “Destination Tokyo” is a strange trip and one well worth taking.