I am snobby, jaded, cynical, and bored with guitar bands, and due to these character flaws, I have been unenthusiastic in recent days about the state of Japanese non-experimental indie music. But I like this band nhhmbase (“ne-han base”), and they’re now officially on my shortlist.
Trevor from Music Related sent me their old demo last year, and despite the fact that the drums were recorded to sound like they’re Casio keyboard samples, the three mp3s suddenly and inexplicably became my favorite thing outside of The Beagles. I naturally tend to like off-kilter time sequences: They sound fresh. But so many of these semi-Math Rock bands either spiderweb their guitar lines into boring drones, go jazzy, or start believing that their little science experiment in 11/8 is the hook. nhhmbase’s instrumental technique makes 9/8 sound easy, and they remember to write actual songs with melodies and structures. They also show great mastery over dynamics — that kind of Jane’s Addiction break-neck movement between pastoral scenes and heavy noise. The singer’s voice lifts miraculously into the upper register in short spurts with no warning.
They also avoid the normal rock clutter problem. The drummer nonchalantly plays his “zero tom” kit in simple patterns a la Klaus Dinger. The bass is heavy and provides the underlying riffs. The “lead guitarist” punches individual notes and lets them ring out in feedback (guitar strap: extremely loose and long), while the singer only plays sparse and sparkly jazz chords (guitar strap: extremely tight and high).
Now this could be terribly boring if they weren’t so drunken and brash and young: stereotypically trashing their instruments at the end, dropping lyrics, breaking multiple strings in the course of the first song. (For those wondering how amateur bands can afford to treat their instruments poorly, lead singer Mamoru was rocking a $200 Fender Squier last night for a few songs — the favorite guitar of fourteen year-olds everywhere.)
See nhhmbase on YouTube here.