After an exhausting day of taking care of stuff and having to repair my bike tire literally the last minute before heading to Urban Spree for the very first time, I was more than glad to have made it there against all odds. Nisennenmondai as well as Clean & Jerk were both fantastic!
Besides the fact of it being located somewhere on the RAW area, I didn't know anything about Urban Spree beforehands. On their website they proclaim to be an "independent contemporary art gallery"and to defend "an artistic grassroots approach, directed towards cities, street & graffiti artists, photographers and contemporary artists." That doesn't sound too bad in the first place and the venue also seemed nice at first sight. I arrived quite late but fortunately didn't miss anything, Clean & Jerk just started a couple of minutes after my arrival, so I made my way into the concert room on time together with a respectable amount of other people.
Since the front of the room was already quite packed, I just headed to the back and found a neat place on some high stairs with perfect view of the stage. Not only was the view pretty nice, I also instantly noticed the perfect sound, which contributed greatly to make this a worthwhile event. Clean & Jerk were announced as a new Berlin based project of an ex-Chrome Hoof member and I have to say they were more than a worthy support for Nisennenmondai. Their music wasn't completely different to Nisennenmondai's, both three piece bands played instrumental and highly rhythmic music with influences from Krautrock and Electronica. But still they had a very distinguished way of combining these influences to form something interesting and appealing. They're music was mainly relying on a dry and deep bass and tight drumming, completed by a percussionist who threw in some tribal rhythms, cowbells as well as synthesizer and keyboard melodies once in a while. This combination of rhythmic and minimalistic bass and drum playing immediately drew my attention and I was positively surprised to say the least. Musically it reminded me of early post-punk bands like Liquid Liquid, sometimes ESG or even Gang of Four combined with very reduced Electronica and early analog-synth music. The music was groovy (although I hate to use that word for some reasons) and driving, it was diversified but minimalistic at the same time and it made me wish to see these guys again some time soon. Perfect prelude to a great evening.
After getting some fresh air outside, I secured a place closer to the stage while Nisennenmondai were finishing to set up. I had already seen their last show at Festsaal Kreuzberg nearly two years ago (read our short review about that show here), so I kind of knew what was about to happen. What I did not know was that it was going to be THAT good.
Nisennenmondai are an all-female instrumental band from Tokyo/Japan. Their influences are rather obvious, in fact they named a couple of songs on their 2008 record Neji Tori after some of them: Sonic Youth, This Heat, Pop Group. Add Krautrock bands like Can or Neu! to that mix and you'll get at least an idea of what they do. Not unlike their support band Clean & Jerk, Nisennenmondai play stripped down and minimalistic music. They rely on repetition and rhythm to create an intense atmosphere of danceable and hypnotic music. The first four songs basically sounded like slight variations from just one main theme, yet the band got everybody in a trance like state by just playing a straight bass drum beat and 16th notes on the hi-hat, pulsating bass and some guitar noises plus melodies. Their songs are often structured in an ascending way, starting with just a simple guitar loop and a drum rhythm, then adding themes and sounds one after another. By changing subtle details within these songs they somehow make the same song sound like a no wave/post punk song with ESG influences and shortly after like a scene from a rave techno club. The dynamics they achieve by at the same time reducing all their music to the bare bones is truly fascinating and touching.
Urban Spree was pretty close to being sold out and when I turned around during the end of the set to see how full the room is it seemed like not many people had left. I stayed at the front during the whole set, although it was hot and sweaty as hell. After about six songs that felt like a hypnotic eternity (I mean in a good way, not in a dull and tiring way), Nisennenmondai's guitar player shortly introduced the band and said they hope to be back soon. The audience approved with frenetic applause and the band left stage without playing an encore (which I already loved when they did it last time). I left the venue sweaty and happy and have nothing more to say besides agreeing with the band's wish to come back soon.