Tokyo instrumental trio Nisennenmondai (which translates to “year 2000 problem”) have always seemed to struggle between an unwillingness — or fear of — compromising their scratchy, lo-fi sound and the problem of transferring the immediacy and sometimes breathtaking energy of their live performances onto disc, making uneven but nevertheless tangible progress with their recorded material over the past several years.
With this live double album, the band have jettisoned any attempts to make the studio work, plumping instead for a straight recording of a concert at the Shibuya concert venue O-Nest. The benefits are clear from the start with the larger location creating a more spacious sound that stands in instant contrast to the group’s often claustrophobic studio efforts.
At a little under 80 minutes in length, it also acts as a sort of greatest hits, with the group stretching out the minimalist one-note buzz of “Fan” to almost 15 tightly-wound minutes. Elsewhere, “Ikkyokume” takes the core components of Stereolab’s “Golden Ball” and drives them into a drum-pounding fury, while Nisennenmondai give in to their dancefloor fever on “Appointment,” with its mid-’80s Vince Clarke synth loop, and the exhilarating, metronomic death disco of “Mirrorball.”
It remains a delight how the band manage to unite the blissed-out repetition of Krautrock bands like Neu! with the uncompromising discord of This Heat and the fierce no-wave energy of early Sonic Youth. However, given the joyous lengths to which they draw out their songs, perhaps Nisennenmondai’s greatest strength is their still growing mastery of the kind of subtle dynamics which ensure that, despite the tight restrictions they force themselves to work under, their music remains thrilling and fresh.
Nisennenmondai will play in Shibuya, Tokyo, at O-Nest with Buffalo Daughter on June 20 (8 p.m.; ¥3,000 in adv.; ); and WWW with Yolz in the Sky, Gekitetsu and Guitar Wolf on June 24 (7 p.m.; ¥2,800 in adv.;  5458-7676). For more information, visit www.nisennenmondai.com.
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