ALBUMS: OOIOO’s Nijimusi Explodes With Joy

Yoshimi P-We’s Boredoms offshoot makes intricate ecstatic chaos from traditional rock instruments

OOIOO Nijimusi, Thrill Jockey 2020

Artist: OOIOO

Album: Nijimusi

Label: Thrill Jockey

★★★★ (4/5 stars)


Nijimusi explodes right out of the blocks with just under a minute of frantic, shimmering cymbal roll, of speed-freaked vocal chant sputtering in tongues over a blur of chaotic free-for-all.

It’s a coded transmission from an alien space ship, a tribal ritual performed on the edge of a volcano, an antic mix of noise, jazz, rock and lounge music, wrapped in a burrito and lit on fire. Well, no, actually, it’s the eighth full length from OOIOO, the rhythm-shocked trance-wizards who spun out of the Boredoms decades ago to make a joyful female-centric racket. 

The origin story, if you’ve missed it so far, is that Yoshime P-We of the Boredoms got asked to do a photo shoot back in 1996 and invited a few friends to pose as the at that time purely fictional band, OOIOO. In a kind of “if you shoot it, they will come” parable, the glamor shots birthed an actual musical enterprise. Less than a year later, OOIOO was opening for Sonic Youth, using guitars marked with dots to help new players find the right notes. That, obviously, was more than 20 years ago, and everyone in the band has picked up considerable technical skills. Yet the aura of volatile, group shouted, let’s-do-this ritual persists. However, complex the rhythmic cross currents, however furious the pace, OOIOO creates and conquers chaos on the fly, with a ping-ponging energy that seems to fly every which way, but in fact, pursues its own aims. These are not improvisations, but rather nailed down compositions—like a ballet made of lightning bolts. 

OOIOO 2020 (Art: Ron Hart)

Nijimusi is the first OOIOO to include new-ish drummer Mishina, a central and excellent element in their four-way interaction. Mishina roils and ruptures the textures of these cuts, keeping up a furious pace under even relatively serene tracks. “bulun,” for instances has the buzzing, nodding, jazzy tunefulness of certain Stereolab cuts, but despite its tranquility, Mishina works like a maniac underneath, bashing and banging in ricocheting abandon. AvA, who plays bass, pushes movement in tandem with the drums; the bass ripples like a muscle in this cut. Yoshimio, the spiritual center of this quartet, chants and squalls and croons, putting a logic and songful-ness into its irregular rhythms. And KaYan, who plays guitar and keyboards, concocts the space-age sounds and atmospheres that turn drum-pounded, chanting litanies futuristic, rather than angle. 

In fact, if you think of OOIOO like a human body, the bass serves as its connective tension, drums as its rattling, chittering skeleton and guitar/keyboards and voice as explosive, firing neurons. There’s a volatile combination of physical, cerebral and spiritual energy that pulse and flickers as you listen. 

The long, constantly mutating “walk for ‘345’ minutes” feels like the album’s anchor. It starts in slow meditation, bass blurting periodically against radiant figures in guitar. It quickens and thickens, bursting into double-timed exuberance by mid-cut, and incorporates themes from past OOIOO albums into its furious motion. It ends in a blinding, white-noise blur of sound, an all enveloping frenzy that is both an aural assault and a trapdoor to serene other-ness. Twenty years on from its dada prank beginnings, OOIOO is a band like no other. 

 

AUDIO: OOIOO Nijimusi (full album)

Jennfer Kelly

Jennifer Kelly has been writing about music since the early aughts, beginning at Splendid and Neumu and more recently at Dusted, PopMatters and Aquarium Drunkard. She likes garage rock, psych, acid folk, guitar pickers and punk rockers, and she's a sucker for any band that shouts "hey!" in the middle of a song.  

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