Nisennenmondai, Kim Ki O @ La Maroquinerie
Ekin and Berna of Kim Ki O are obviously delighted to have been invited to France for two shows, but clearly the decision to come is one they have had to wrestle with given their friends and family are back home in Istanbul caught up in the Taksim Square and Gezi Park protests.
Having made the journey it is clear this is not business as usual as their voices crack with emotion as they speak of police brutality and a refusal to give up the fight for the secularist community. Their t-shirts are self-drawn reading “Resist and we win” and “Everywhere’s Taksim, everywhere’s resistance” and each song is introduced, themes explained and dedicated despite the fact, by their own admittance, they don’t usually speak between songs. Here though, stagecraft is trumped by a need to communicate about the cruelty they have witnessed and the injustice they feel.
Of course, all this creates quite a poignant atmosphere in the room and elevate their tunes to a sum that is perhaps greater than the parts. That said the combination of strutting synth and hollowed-out Joy Division-style bass perfectly captures a sense of blissed-out, melancholic optimism and, as such, as their set comes to a close, the roof is raised and if they weren’t having to pack up their own gear they may well have been carried on shoulders from the room.
Nisennenmondai bring an intense atmosphere of their own, creating a different kind of friction and pressure through build and release. Mostly build. Pretty much all build. Indeed, Syaka Himeno’s drum set comprises only three bits of kit; kick drum, hi-hat and snare and the snare ain’t getting much of a look in. Not much danger of a tear for that particular skin. However the fury with which the cymbal is attacked is a marvel in itself, requiring a limbering up pre-performance and a cracking of the knuckles, elbows and shoulders between pieces. Nisennenmondai are clearly not prepared to surrender to the threat of repetitive strain injury.
With their most recent material prior to latest LP N , the set with which they toured triumphantly round Europe and America in 2011 (captured on their Nisennenmondai Live!!! recording), it was mostly the case of a fast rhythm grinding abrasively, stabbing guitar (or Korg synth) weaving its way in and around the bass and percussion, taking its time to reach the springboard, the metronomic bass-thump and hi-hat rave-beat greeting the extra drums when it kicks on. With this new record however they are seemingly happy for soundscapes to travel without such frenzy and with a flattening of the peaks and troughs.
Still at the heart of it is Yuri Zaikawa’s bass. A wall of bass. Impervious bass, set down as a foundation layer. Then Himeno, head thrashing from side to side in time with her drum pedal, will attack the hi-hat as though trying to whittle it with blunt sticks. Finally Masako Takada, tweaking notes out of her guitar, will hunch over a deck of pedals and switches, looping, stretching and manipulating those notes, before adding more echo and shimmer. It is all done in a similar way to how Michael Rother operates live, albeit on a more compact scale.
So, this latest marker in the Nisennenmondai canon sees more ambient textures, more teasing (N being made up of three near-quarter-hour pieces), but nonetheless their repetitive hooks clasp tight, and the grooves prove swiftly addictive.