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Nisennenmondai – Live at Clouds Hill

Clouds Hill

Nisennenmondai – Live at Clouds HillNisennenmondai are a group whose stage performances are inevitably exercises in hypnotic repetition and mesmerising fascination, so it’s interesting to see just how well it translates to the live album format. As indicated by the title, the disc was recorded as part of the label’s series of such events in front of an audience at Clouds Hill‘s Hamburg studio (the set length limited by the available space on two analogue tapes), so it’s not exactly a concert recording as such. Regardless, the trio work through new versions of every track from the N album as well as the “Mirror Ball” single with their customary concentrated intensity, and a glance at the video of them playing the set shows the trio in full-blown, heads-down trance mode as per usual.

Is there that much difference between this live set and the versions they recorded as N? The answer lies in the subtle shifts and tweaks, the atmosphere of the room — playing before a crowd, no matter how small, always makes a difference to the ways in which music is performed — and in how the pieces have evolved through the many performances on Nisennenmondai’s extensive tour schedule which brought them through Germany in time to make this recording. In some respects, this disc marks the high point of N‘s repetition, the distilled essence of the album served up with fresh nuance and keenly felt effect of living inside the tracks for an extended period.

Masako Takada‘s guitar blends and shimmers around the pulses of Yuri Zaikawa‘s bass and Sayaka Himen‘s propulsive drumbeat, everything coated in delicately-applied layers of loops, FX and electronics which characterise the band’s meeting at the interface of techno, avant-rock and electronica. While there is a little bit of audience applause captured on the disc, it isn’t too annoying or over-present, as is far too often the case with live albums. “A” and “B-1” and “B-2” unwind with their familiar sinuous intent, set fixedly on a notional vanishing point where the interplay of instruments and the dance never ends without a cataclysmic termination in sight. However, it’s “Mirror Ball ’13” which really lifts matters into the stratosphere, the frenzied guitar fuzz shimmering into a looped haze of a decidedly more rockist bent and providing a surge of endorphins as it does so.

Nisennenmondai’s music is about the heartbeat pulse from which life emanates and to which it resonates, and their relentless, endlessly essential rhythm signifies this affirmation with a steely, yet warmly enveloping, determination. And the best thing about this release is that Clouds Hill have made all of the concert footage from each of the recordings in the series available to watch online here as well as releasing them on vinyl and CD; so sign up (for free), and enjoy.

-Linus Tossio-

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