Battles with Nisennenmondai at the Glass House (Oct. 16, 2011) – Photos & Show Review

Blends of different music, no matter how different or eclectic, can always create perfect harmony, as long as they are arranged well. This is what bands like Nisennenmondai and Battles strive to do, and last Sunday’s show at The Glass House in Pomona was yet another demonstration of their skill.

A group entitled CGAK was the first to perform, but due to foreseen yet unavoidable circumstances (waiting for my photographer to put her make-up on), this author was unable to witness their set.

Nisennenmondai consists of three ladies hailing from Tokyo, Japan. The unassuming trio came out amidst scattered polite cheers, but by the end of their set, the crowd was thundering with appreciation. The group consists of a drummer (placed in the middle of the stage, she had a ridiculous amount of energy and rhythm), a bassist (heavily influenced by funk and jazz), and a samples/guitarist. The set-up of the samples was intriguing, considering the keyboard was a shortened version of a regular one, while she used a guitar pedal like a DJ to make weird sounds.

Their music was a steady mass of drum & bass, mixed with jazz, rock, funk, trance, and techno. There is also a heavy Eastern influence in their sound. The songs are pieced together quite carefully, so that their simplicity hides their musical subtlety. The guitarist for the band could even think about joining a noisecore band, in reference to the general chaos her instrument was wailing. All in all, they were an unexpected treat for the evening.

Following Nisennenmondai was the highlight of the evening: Battles. The group, who recently underwent the departure of their singer (August 2010), have continued forward and recently released their second album Gloss Drop. Their eagerly anticipated tour allows them to display their new material, while exposing new fans to old material.

Live, each member multi-tasks on a level that would make schoolteachers jealous, and they never seem to stop moving. Ian Williams, when he’s not smashing and scratching his strings in a cacophony to wake the dead, is always pressing some button or fiddling a knob. If he’s not doing that, he’s tapping on the cowbell or playing the keys. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the stage, Dave Konopka is busy playing bass, then switching to guitar, and finally returning to bass, sometimes all during the same song. In the middle of it all is drummer, John Stanier — one cymbal clanging against the sky, his sticks blurring the air apart.

Amongst the songs played was “Ice Cream,” (from their new album) a smooth reggae-esque piece that at times sounds like a bizarre carnival. They also performed “Atlas,” which brought noticeable cheers from the crowd. The chanting of this song sounds like it should be in a horror movie, since the song is uplifting but eerie at the same time. Though their songs are long, the group played a lengthy set, ensuring that no fans would leave disappointed.
Progressive rock comes to mind when questioned about their sound, but that’s too limiting. Their influences range from funk to rockabilly, from trance to hip-hop, and from many others as well. They attempt to blend all of these genres together to create one unique harmonious sound, and they actually do it quite well. Their rhythm is fast enough to be interesting, yet slow enough to relax to. The variation of sounds and effects is enough to keep any musician interested, and most people will be calmed by the sheer tranquility of their music.

This author’s only complaint was stage presence, of which there was none by any member of either band. Nobody talked to the crowd and no one really moved around except when they were directly interacting with their different instruments. Most of the members didn’t even look at the crowd; it was like they were in the studio jamming (which can be fine for some, but annoying for others). One could argue that this is due to them playing so many instruments at the same time, but individual observation will be left to judge.

In general, it was a decent show, despite the lack of anything really happening. Auditory-wise, however, this show was quite good, and this author is certain that both groups gained numerous new fans as a result. We’ve all got Battles, but not as difficult as the one this author had trying to pronounce Nisennenmondai. Go ahead. Try it.


Words: Jeremy Bigelow

Photography: Ciera Leisenfelder




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