HURT, DECIDE, CONSPIRE! by Kendo NagasakiRelease date: May 5, 2023
Label: Hidden Mantra Records
“Extraordinary scenes here at Victoria Hall this afternoon Brian… Kendo Nagasaki in absolutely ferocious form and taking on all comers. He now appears to be conjuring up a swirling, vibrating column of air in the very centre of the ring… ”
Amazing really how in a post digital world of limitless possibility the past has so firm a grip around the neck of the future. For younger viewers I should perhaps explain that Kendo Nagasaki was a masked wrestler, in fact a character performed by several wrestlers over time. Taking his name for their band and adopting his wish for anonymity the trio use the stage names Mr Darleydale, Mr Measham and Mr Droitwich, these being the primary locations of the endless DFS sale, as memorably recited at the end of advertisements in-between televised bouts of wrestling. At a glance then Kendo Nagasaki might seem yet another band pining for childhood Saturdays lost in the phosphorescent haze of early 80’s ITV.
I’m pleased to report this is not the case. They are neither a tired retread of old moves or faded wistful brain murk but an exhilarating blast of wonk and skronk. A trio of unusual make up, Kendo Nagasaki are two drummers and a trombonist with a comically extensive pedal board. On HURT, DECIDE, CONSPIRE! they spit out manageable chunks of abstract noise, changing moods and fits of groove. Rhythmic and immediate they hit the sweet spot between engaging and unpredictable.
They start out full throttle, ‘Drumbeat Micro Onions’ slamming straight in with a tightly repeating figure and hectic clattering drums. For contrast the second tune ‘Memory Doped Microfilm’ is a quick minute of atmospheric jitters with the trombone crying in the corner. All the tunes have odd three word titles, like cryptic crossword clues, a game of exquisite corpse, or The Fall. Their significance unclear.
One of their more well realised numbers ‘Sedated Backyards Solutions’ starts on looping waves of distortion before mutating into extended drone chords, It’s a bit like Stereolab but with the left bank bohemianism switched out for more battered and delinquent canal side philosophising. This tends to be them at their best, locking into a riff and driving it to splinter apart but they also do more reflective moments. ‘Jukebox Lends Requests’ is effectively moody and spacious, the plaintive loops at the beginning of ‘Stub Spits Anthems’ find them at their most cinematic before being rudely knocked aside by another lurching distorted bass groove.
Kendo Nagasaki only record live, with no overdubs and because they foreground brass and use improvisation they clearly flirt with the J word. Really though, it’s only tangentially jazz, belonging more to a ragged noise/no wave/dada/punk lineage. I guess we might consider that Sly & The Family Drone currently operate in a similar way, although the results are quite different. Most of the things you might link it to use the raw blast of the saxophone but here the trombone rarely sounds like a trombone and its unique way with sound, pushed through a raft of effects creates a whole range of textures.
On the longer final track ‘Cloud Parts Represent’ the mournful swing of the early section is abruptly punctured by long, resounding foghorn notes which are then interspersed by sections of frantic percussive blasts before finally returning to an almost doom restatement of the earlier riff. With the band stretching out a bit it feels more measured and its wilder sections more intense. You may not hear, or need, too many albums by drum, trombone, drum trios this year but this one is packed with slammers and well worth checking out.