THE BOREDOMS are from Japan, but when they make music there's no language problem. Although the Osaka sextet's members don't speak English fluently, lyrics are seldom an issue in their compositions, which jumble hardcore punk, free jazz and sheer cacophony. The primal screeches of Boredoms frontman eYe Yamataka are unintelligible in any tongue.
When it comes time to publicize the band's first American tour in almost four years, however, language does present an obstacle. Rather than grope through a trans-Pacific phone interview, Yamatakarequested that he answer questions by e-mail. His responses were almost as cryptic as the titles of the seven tracks on the band's latest album, "Super ae," which include "Super You," "Super Are," and "Super Are You."
Asked the significance of such names, Yamataka offers only that "We like super markets and we have been and still are influenced by super markets."
"Super ae" is not exactly a mellow album, but it does emphasize groove and chant over sonic aggression. Yamataka (who adapted the tag "eYe" from the name of his younger sister Aiko) can still be heard to scream on the disc, which also features some harsh industrial tones. The dominant influences, however, would seem to be traditional African and Asian drumming and chants.
"Traditional music is always in our heart," Yamataka agrees. Still, he notes that the band didn't consciously decide to temper its unruly sound. "It just happened to be like that. We never [plan] on something."
The album's fractured worldbeat style is also reflected in the Boredoms' current lineup, which features three percussionists: E-da, ATR (sometimes known as Atari) and Yoshimi, who also sings and plays keyboards. (In the band's first incarnation, almost 20 years ago, Yamataka was the drummer.) The other current members are guitarist Yamamoto and bassist Hilah, who used to be known as Hira. Yamataka himself sometimes used to go by the name Yamatsuka.
These various names are just one aspect of the Boredoms' playfulness with image and language. In naming its latest album "Super ae," the band used the ligature of "ae," once common in Latin and Latinate English, but now rarely used. (The "ae" digraph is pronounced "eye.") The name confused some Americans, who have guessed that the title is "Super Ar" or "Super Are."
The Boredoms have further perplexed fans by performing with many affiliated or offshoot bands. Currently, Yamataka reports, he's a member of the hardcore punk-band 1, Yoshimi plays in Ooioo, and Hilah and E-da are in AOA. As for Yamamoto, Yamataka explains, there are "just too many it's impossible to mention. Ask him if you have a chance. He might even forget some."
Yamataka's previous projects include UFO or Die and Hanatarash, a band known for Einsturzende Neubauten-like performance tactics involving bulldozers, fire and circular saws. He's collaborated often with New York avant-noise saxophonist John Zorn, who frequently visits Japan. The singer, who does much of the band's album artwork, has also recently published "Nanoo," which he describes as "my mind-expanding-sound book with collages and drawings."
Asked about the band's American and European influences, Yamataka mentions only hardcore punk, especially the Minutemen, and Soulfly, the Brazilian American band that's combined heavy metal and Afro-Brazilian drumming. In the past, however, the band members have cited Funkadelic, the Fugs and dub pioneer Lee "Scratch" Perry. "Super Shine," perhaps the most tuneful track on the latest album, resembles "Sing This All Together," a song from the Rolling Stones's 1967 psychedelic oddity "Their Satanic Majesties Request." Curiously enough, the song was also covered by Cibo Matto, the Japan-rooted New York quartet.
"I never listened to it," says Yamataka of the Stones album. "But someone else mentioned the same thing before, so I am very curious to listen to it now."
Yamataka is less interested in commercial Japanese pop, which is generally as bland and mechanical as the Boredoms' music is eccentric and unpredictable. "We have hardly any relationship with mainstream Japanese pop music," he says. In fact, the band isn't even well-connected to the Shibuya scene that produced such trendy acts as Cornelius and Pizzicato Five, whose eclectic style has attracted modest American cult followings. Shibuya is in Tokyo, while the Boredoms remain in their native Osaka, Japan's second city.
"There's something about Osaka we like," Yamataka says. "Maybe the air around it. And I like takoyaki, small ball-shaped pancakes with octopus inside."
"Something about Tokyo we do not like," he adds. "And Tokyo does not have good takoyaki."
"Super ae" was released last year, "but we were simply too busy in Japan" to tour at the time, Yamataka explains. "We always wanted to come back to the U.S. We like for U.S. people to know we still exist."
For the Boredoms, that's an unusually straightforward motivation, but then the singer adds a characteristically opaque twist. "U.S. is in the direction of the east of Japan," he notes. "And east is good direction for us this year."
THE BOREDOMS -- Appearing Sunday at the 9:30 club. * To hear a free Sound Bite from "Super ae," call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8110. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)
CAPTION: The Boredoms' latest release may expand the group's sphere of influence.