Since making their major label debut in 2005, Chatmonchy has established itself as one of the country’s most popular female rock bands. As a trio, they released several chart-topping discs and sold out gigs at the iconic Nippon Budokan. In 2010, the band played its first American shows with Spin Magazine and MTV Iggy labeling their South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival appearance as a “must see.” In the fall of 2011, drummer Kumiko Takahashi split from the group. The remaining members chose not to replace her and “Henshin” (“Transformation”) is the band’s first album as a duo.
An edgier effort than 2011’s poppy “You More,” “Henshin” features production work from the likes of Asian Kung-Fu Generation guitarist Masafumi Goto and highly regarded Japan-based musician (and former Sonic Youth member) Jim O’Rourke. Although “Henshin” begins on a rocky note — the mellow title track is a bland throwaway number and makes for an insipid opening — the album quickly picks up steam after that. The second song, “Hatena,” sees guitarist Eriko Hashimoto playing harmonica, which adds a fun, rollicking dynamic to the act’s power pop. “Thermae Roman” builds into an excellent guitar-heavy cut alongside impassioned wails from Hashimoto. A stripped down, funky keyboard solo mid-song adds an interesting twist before Hashimoto counts to 10 and Chatmonchy close “Thermae Roman” on a noisy note.