The music of the Japanese underground has always been of the utmost intrigue to Western ears. To namecheck but a few artists, recent years have seen my stereo dazzled by Otoboke Beaver, Dos Monos and Melt-Banana. And whilst Western coverage of modern Japanese music has never been the most comprehensive, logic dictates that if groups of that calibre are emerging fully formed, the music scene across its islands must really be kicking some serious ass.
This was what brought Charley from San Diego to Japan in the late 2000s. Quickly, he met Hiromi, KenKen and Kuwayama in the city of Nagoya, and formed Nicfit around a shared love of frayed post-punk. After 12 years of sharpening their tools with occasional seven-inch singles, the quartet are ready to spark up their debut LP Fuse.
Nicfit’s sound is a volatile mixture of Oh Sees’ beefy garage and Minutemen’s combustible skronk, and here their volcanic essence is captured at the moment of eruption. The Japanese outfit hurtle through 11 songs frantically and breathlessly, Hiromi’s rallying vocals the focal point.
‘Unleash’ revolves around a rumbling no-wave bassline intermittently chipped away by devious Contortions-esque guitar licks, whilst Hiromi’s vocal cries are truly berserk. Meanwhile ‘Rigged’ fuses the unheimlich thwack of a fist on a detuned piano with hardcore guitar gunslinging, a heady and intoxicating mix.
There doesn’t have to be any dynamic range on Fuse – it does what all the very best punk records do. It’s straight-to-the-point, take-no-prisoners punk rock. Like the Ramones, Nicfit motor headfirst through a sterling collection of songs as quickly and urgently as possible. It is a mission statement best surmised by the closer, a cover of The Urinals’ ‘Ack Ack Ack’. In 73 seconds of shredding and cathartic mutant garage, they cram in as much wild-eyed invention and mania as many bands eke out over decades. A vital debut from the soft underbelly of Japan’s underground music scene.
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