NON baNd (self-titled): new lease of life for skronky post-punk / new wave cult band’s debut album

NON baNd, self-titled, Germany, TAL, TAL04 clear vinyl LP (2017, reissued 2022)

Originally released back in 1982, the only album from Japanese new wave / punk band NON baNd has been through two or three reissues since then and German label TAL has seen fit to reissue the album again in time for its 40th anniversary. (At the time of review, the reissue date was set for 18 November 2022.) Founded by bassist / vocalist Non, NON baNd had a very brief life as a trio and then a quintet in the early 1980s but broke up in 1982, six months after the album’s release, and Non retired from the music scene. She began singing and performing again in 1999, doing live dates in her home prefecture Aomori (in Japan’s far north), some with Keiji Haino and Tatsuya Yoshida, and in Tokyo. Non reformed NON baNd (or Non Band as it’s usually written now) in the early 2000s and the band continues to perform, releasing three live albums and a studio album over the past two decades.

The album showcases a distinct skronky post-punk / new wave style with a touch of ska or jazz influence, topped by the icing on the cake that is Non’s apparently whimsical vocals, child-like and playful yet insistent and intense. Starting with the minimal funky “Duncan Dancin’ “, the album skips through Non’s eccentric, often bratty rants on tracks like “Ghetto” and “Wild Child (Can’t Stand It)” with only percussion, sax and quivering violin for company. Even a comparatively normal and serene song like “Solar” veers close to madness as Non’s voice wanders up hill and down dale over the trilling music which sometimes has an odd Middle Eastern or East Asian slant in its acoustic string tremors. “Dance Song” is as close as Non comes to rapping or toasting over a soundtrack owing as much to jazz improv and ska in parts. The album goes out on a jaunty folksy note with “Bap Pang” where at last the violin finds its natural home in extended solo melodies – at first, anyway, as the song takes a surprising turn halfway through and turns into a quirky stomp.

The music seems raw and improvised at first but the more you hear it, the more you realise it was very cunningly thought out and crafted in such a way as to seem wide-eyed and innocent. The unusual instrument selection and the music’s minimal presentation contribute to its unique style. Non’s own breathy singing certainly puts the Björk Gudmundsdottir school of singing in the shade as she skips through chanting, gabbling and near-rapping. This album is certainly overdue for a reissue and its time to shine in the limelight.

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