Over the years, Nisennenmondai have made the most of repetition, but on N, the trio takes relentless grooves to new heights. Possibly because this is the first album the band recorded with overdubs instead of live, N is an even starker, more streamlined affair than Fan or Destination Tokyo; in fact, Masako Takada, Yuri Zaikawa, and Sayaka Himeno's pursuit of the purest, most uncluttered rhythms on these tracks makes their previous work seem almost flashy by comparison. Nisennenmondai took inspiration from minimal electronic music for N's steady yet shifting rhythms, and hearing them translate mechanical repetition into organic performances is thrilling. Himeno's drumming focuses on interplay between the kick drum and hi-hat, crafting taut, driving patterns that are all the more impressive considering she keeps them up for at least ten minutes at a stretch. Meanwhile, Zaikawa's basslines do more with less, complementing the drums with artful one- or two-note runs and leaving more room for guitarist Masako Takada to slice -- and amplify -- the tension with spectral feedback and impressionistic licks. The group's approach has always thrived on longer pieces, and never more so than on N's three rangy tracks. "A" may be the boldest of the lot as it swings between tense and hypnotic; "B1"'s prominent bass and startling snares make the album's ties to dance music clearer; and "B2" offers slightly subtler variations on the themes introduced on the tracks that came before it. Kinetic and completely engaging, N is some of Nisennenmondai's finest music and offers plenty of cerebral and visceral pleasures.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares