Review Summary: With their first EP, nhhmbase solidly gives Japanese math rock a fresh, new face.
In the independent music scene, there is no band quite like nhhmbase. nhhmbase (pronounced ne-han base) formed in 2004, and quickly found a pulse in the independent scene for their unique, melodic mixture of math/jam rock (akin to the instrumental group Rega) and various progressive/post rock elements (akin to the critically acclaimed Ling Tosite Sigure). The technicality and melodic spectrum of the band is enough to win over the most stubborn rock fans, and leave listeners at awe at the sheer musicianship of the group. On their 2006 self-titled debut EP, nhhmbase create a unique empire that is entirely theirs, full of emotion, technicality and fantastic melodic progressions.
On the opening tracks, "Kuroku Nure" and "Tsuru no Mai", the group opens up with a sliding guitar riff, and plucky, Primus-esqued bass lines. "Kuroku Nure" then starts off with a sludgy sound, before breaking off into a math-like rhythm. The group's frontman, Mamoru, sings angelically along the bubbling technical track. A fantastic track that shows the listener, firsthand, the uniqueness that is nhhmbase. "Tsuru no Mai" then fades on suddenly, and has a more subtle approach. The album's previous sludgy feel is continued, and amplified a few notches. "ANA" is a track that centers more on a melodic foreground, with the start of the track being completely piano-orchestrated. The song soon follows a bouncy drum line, executed by Tsukasa, and a whimsical, hypnotizing bass line follows. The song then follows a dreamy breakdown, all centered around melodic vocalization and emotional piano stabs by Mamoru. A fantastic track that shows the band's wonderful melodic progressive tendencies. "PL Network" is a more aggressive track, with distorted, biting bass lines and lo-fi guitar work. Mamoru's vocals gives the track the perfect amount of emotion, making the track an interesting piece of DIY-executed progressive math rock. The album's finest moment, however, is the final track, "9/8". The song starts off with a half-walked bass line, and lightly plucked and strummed guitars. The drums come in, and helps give the song its main, discombobulated rhythm. The musicianship of nhhmbase stands out more memorably in "9/8", more-so than any of the previous songs. The song's bridge consists of Mamoru wailing along the crashing breakdown. A wonderful piece of whimsical musicianship, and officially solidifies nhhmbase as a group consisting of some of Japan's most impressive young musicians, as their balance of technicality and melody puts nhhmbase on a plateau, high above their competition.
Over all, nhhmbase's 20-minute long self-titled EP shows the band's extreme potential, as they fantastically balance a razor-sharp technical edge with mainstream friendly melodies. If you're a fan of post rock, or experimental rock in general, give nhhmbase a listen, and, more specifically, if you're just starting with the band, give their debut EP a listen. A fantastic starting point for one of Japan's most fantastic up-and-coming groups.