9-12 Middle Street
T: 01273 749465
Promoter Dictionary Pudding hasn’t been around long but has already formed a reputation for delivering little known international acts that punch above their weight live, twinned with well thought out support. Two of our favourite gigs of last year were their promotions: seasoned experimental punks The Ex and gnarled noise veterans Wolf Eyes. They even managed to coax the best performance seen by The Fall in Brighton for years out of Mark E Smith.
Add Nissenmondai to the list of bands whose records you may not be aware of but are going to be life affirmingly good live. We’d go as far as to say that you won’t even need to be familiar with their material to enjoy them. Not that their records aren’t great, simply that their tracks – pitched in a place where krautrock, techno and noise meet – just seem designed for you to lose your mind to at a gig.
The Tokyo based all female three-piece formed in 1999, taking a name that meant ‘millennium bug’. Early work bore comparisons with those legends of psychedelic Japanese music La Rallizes Denudes, while further influence could be deduced from the titles on their Neji Tori album – ‘Pop Group’, ‘This Heat’ and ‘Sonic Youth’. The last ingredient is the Neu! borrowed motorik drum beat. Their last two albums Radio Tokyo and last year’s N have noticeably cleaned up their sound, moving them away from noise and into an ultra-precise human techno. Bring your dancing shoes, you’ll be needing them.
In support Nope are a group of Yorkshire based musicians who all have interests in other projects, including That Fucking Tank and Hookworms. Note the desire to avoid the ‘supergroup’ tab. Supergroup tends to indicate musicians on easy street trading on former glories. Nope are dark, heavy psychedelic rock who take as much influence from sludge rock like Melvins as they do from Can, that is subterranean in profile in comparison to those projects. They also have two drummers which is always a good thing.
Opening is Drill Folly, the industrial/drone/noise project of Sarah Phelan, who we last caught delivering a mightily impressive set in support of Wolf Eyes. Her emotive, other-worldly soundscapes veer between the beautiful and the brutal.
Words: James McLarnon
The early arrivals were rewarded with an excellent set of beat driven electronica from Drill Folly, who displayed a love of the pile-driving 4/4 techno with some always interesting noise at the frayed edges of her compositions. Horn samples and spoken word parts all combined to create an ambiance that wouldn’t feel out of place on Kompakt Records.
As promised in advance, Nope’s performance is dedicated entirely to their nearly 30-minute track ‘Walker’, the centrepiece of their underrated album of the same name, released last year. We are treated to two drummers that never felt superfluous, which is especially true during the cymbal rains of the band’s quieter moments, providing the atmospheric accompaniment to some wandering two-necked guitar leads. The band excels in their louder moments, riding guitar hook to guitar hook, while the drums boisterously anchor the performance. With the natural delineation between sections of the song we’d be surprised if the casual observer realised it was one piece.
Nissenenmondai’s gradual and subtle development on record has seen them slowly remove the extraneous parts of their music until they have reached a point of clean, ultra-minimal, tech-krautrock that at times feels more like a scientific experiment than a band. It’s like the world’s most austere project manager has arrived and 6-sigma’d the concept of music itself. They are so easy to admire, more disciplined and patient than the hook-up band of Mark E Smith’s dreams, their repetitions are brought to life by moments of human emotion; a hi-hat hit slightly harder, perhaps foreboding a time change to come, or a bass riff moving fractionally faster. It has the effect of making the audience uncomfortable; our brains are hard-wired to act predictively, to assist us with our everyday life, but despite the calming effect of the recurring nature of this music, every minor change acts as a jolt to the nervous system. It makes a mockery of those words synonymous with krautrock: hypnotic and enveloping, as they become tense and rejecting. They spend the entire set edging the audience towards a pressure release that never comes. A form of delayed gratification that forces you to focus on the method rather than the result.
The intellectual analysis wasn’t likely to have satisfied the glowsticks in the air crowd, while it likely felt divine to the beard strokers. As someone who has a foot in both camps, it’s hard not to feel that they haven’t lost something by filtering out the noise and occasional melody of previous work, yet they remain an utterly fascinating spectacle that is completely worthy of anyone’s time.