Japan is widely known as the land of serene gardens, elaborate politeness and the immaculately boring tea ceremony. All of which may have nothing or everything to do with the current abundance of such white-hot Japanese groups as Nisennenmondai, which headlined a noise-band bill Wednesday night at the Warehouse Next Door. The motifs the all-female Tokyo trio played on guitar, bass and drums were elementary, but rendered with such urgency and focus as to eclipse most contemporary Western rock.
Nisennenmondai ("Year 2000 Problem'') set up on the floor in front of the stage, with the musicians facing one another in a loose circle. Except for a few shrieks from guitarist Masako Takada to close the 25-minute set, the band's music was instrumental, constructed primarily of pulsing circular patterns. The hypnotic effect was disrupted periodically by sudden shifts, executed with thrilling precision. This was ensemble music, characterized by rigorous coordination, but nonetheless a star emerged: drummer Sayaka Himeno, who both powered the music and piloted its quick, tight transitions.
Two area bands that preceded Nisennenmondai produced plenty of clamor, yet seemed restrained compared with the headliner. Washington's mostly electronic Facemat began with flutes, chimes and kalimba-like keyboard tones, which the three musicians then contrasted with grinding din, as if they were feeding a New Age lullaby into a shredder. Baltimore's Wzt Hearts used more conventional instruments, including drums and electric guitar, but to similar effect.
-- Mark Jenkins