Austerity is a hell of a drug. Tokyo’s Nisennenmondai has spent its 16-year career figuring out how to do more with much, much less. Since forming in 1999, the group has progressed from the well-mapped territories of instrumental noise-rock into a sparse, industrial zone bordering on the hinterlands of techno, all without changing its traditional rock-trio format.
Yet on this year’s “N’ ” (pronounced “N-dash”) album, released in March, Nisennenmondai’s commitment to repetition appeared to have settled into a holding pattern. Featuring new versions of the monolithic, minimal tracks from 2013’s “N,” the record felt like a refinement rather than a step forward. In purging its music of surplus elements — melody, harmony, tom-tom drums — had the group left itself with nothing new to say?