Posts Tagged ‘Nadja’

Cruel Nature Records – 6th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

These are interesting times for Nadja, the ‘ambient / experimental / doom metal’ duo comprising Leah Buckareff and Aidan Baker. Luminous Rot was recorded during lockdown, and found a home on the legendary Southern Lord label. Released in the spring of 2021, it’s a veritable beast of a work, which combined metal with post-punk, cold-wave, shoegaze, and industrial.

Lockdown feels like something of not so much a distant memory as an unreality, and if by May 2021 it felt like life was returning to normal, the truth is that the wounds were still raw, and any attempt to move on as if life was back as it was before was simply a wilful act of delusion to stave off the effects of the trauma.

And with every trauma, there is some residual hangover, and you might say that Labyrinthine is the product of that. As the accompanying notes detail, the material was recorded during the pandemic and concurrently with Luminous Rot, and ‘explores themes of identity and loss, monstrosity and regret, extreme aesceticism, the differences between labyrinthes and mazes, taking inspiration from Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore, Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Tombs of Atuan, and Victor Pelevin’s reinterpretation of the story of the minotaur and Ariadne, The Helmet of Horror.’

When a band chooses to self-release an album, it’s no longer an indication that it’s substandard or not worthy of a label release, and the case here is that Labyrinthine, which ‘this might be Nadja’s heaviest, doomiest album to date’, it’s clear that rather than consisting of session offcuts, it stands alone as a separate project from Luminous Rot, featuring as it does, a different guest vocalist on each track, and it’s worth listing them here:

Alan Dubin – legendary American vocalist from O.L.D. and Khanate and, currently, Gnaw

Rachel Davies – vocalist and bassist from the British band, Esben & The Witch

Lane Shi Otayanii – is a Chinese multi-media artist and vocalist in Elizabeth Colour Wheel

Dylan Walker – American vocalist from grindcore/noise band Full of Hell

With such a roll-call of contributors, it’s in no way possible to fee short-changed by the fact there are only four tracks, and ‘only’ is somewhat redundant when the shortest of these is almost thirteen minutes in duration. This is an album alright, and it’s an absolute fucking monster at that.

And while the CD release is on the band’s own label, Broken Spine, there are limited cassette versions by several different indie labels from around the world: Katuktu Collective (US), Cruel Nature Recordings (UK), Bad Moon Rising (Taiwan), Adagio830 (Germany), Muzan Editions (Japan), WV Sorcerer (France/China), Pale Ghoul (Australia), and UR Audio Visual (Canada) – and it’s perhaps noting that the running order differs between formats,  and I’m going by the Cruel Nature tape sequence here rather than the CD. It may be more intuitive from a listening perspective, but limitations off format and all…

This co-operative approach to releasing music is highly commendable, and seems to offer solutions to numerous problems, not least of all surrounding distribution in the post-pandemic, post-Brexit era where everything seems on the face of it to be fucked for any band not on a major label with global distribution and access to pressing plants and warehouses worldwide.

The title track is a lugubrious droning crawl: imagine Sunn O))) with drums crashing a beat every twenty seconds in time with each pulverising power chord that vibrates your very lungs. And those beats are muffled, murky, and everything hits with a rib-crushing density, that’s only intensified by the squawking, anguished vocals that shred a blasted treble in contrast to the thick billows of booming bass sludge, and it’s a truly purgatorial experience.

And then, here it comes, and it all comes crashing down hard over the course of the most punishing nineteen minutes in the shape of the brutal behemoth that is ‘Necroausterity’. In a sense, the title speaks for itself in context of a world in lockdown, and it’s sometimes easy to forget just what terrifying times we endured, watching news reports of bodies piling up in New York and elsewhere while governments and news agencies fed a constant stream of statistics around cases and deaths. It felt truly apocalyptic. And ‘Necroausterity’ is the sound of the apocalypse, tuned up to eleven and slowed to a crawl, the writhing torture of a slow, suffocating death soundtracked by guitar and drums do dense and dark as so feel like a bag over the head and a tightening grip on the throat. The recording is overloaded, distorting, and it’s a simply excruciating experience. And it simply goes on, chord after chord, bar after bar, slugging away… and on in a fashion that makes SWANS feel lightweight in comparison. It’s relentless, unforgiving, brutal, and punishing.

‘Rue’ broods hard with dark, thick strings and a heavy atmosphere, but it’s light in comparison. It’s dense, and weighty, but Rachel Davies’ ethereal vocal drifts gloriously within the claustrophobic confines and conjures another level of melody that transforms the thick, sluggish drones into something altogether more enchanting. It builds to a throbbing crescendo that is – perhaps not entirely surprisingly – reminiscent of Esben And the Witch or Big | Brave.

Wolves howl into the groaning drone of ‘Blurred’ and the guitars slowly simmer and burn: no notes, just an endless am-bleeding distortion before the power chords crash in and drive hard, so low and slow and heavy so as to shift tectonic plates and shatter mountains. Amidst the raging tempest, Lane Shi Otayanii brings an otherworldly aspect that transcends mere words, making for a listening experience with a different kind of intensity as it trudges and churns fir what feels like a magical eternity.

The sum total is the sound of hellish desperation, and while Labyrinthine may offer absolutely no solace in the bleakest pits of deathly despair, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an album that better articulates perpetual pain and anguish better than this.

AA

cover

Nadja reveal another track "Starres" from their forthcoming album Luminous Rot, which shall be released on CD and DL formats via Southern Lord on 21st May, with the LP version arriving on 13th August. Luminous Rot pre-orders are live from today, and info can be found on the Southern Lord store, Southern Lord Europe store and via Bandcamp.

About the track and video Nadja comments, "Starres is about both inner- and outerspace, a conflation of the internal neural-network of the human brain with the external cosmos, and how the act of observation might alter those, both from the viewpoint of the observer and the one observed. The video attempts to replicate something of that feeling of cognitive dissonance in the observer, taking a mundane image of houses and warping them, both through reflective filming and digital effects."

Watch the video here:

AA

Nadja 2

(image by by Janina Gallert)

Nadja share special video footage recorded at The Black Lodge in Berlin, which originally premiered exclusively for Roadburn Redux last Friday – now available to view here. About this new material, Nadja comments, "Early in 2021, the Black Lodge and Salon Oblique invited us to participate in their series of filmed performances by Berlin artists. For this session, we chose to perform a new composition, ‘Seemannsgarn’, an extended, meditative piece we wrote about a liminal and tranquil green space/urban waterway in our quiet corner of Berlin, now in flux and with an uncertain future, threatened by gentrification and development.”

This standalone piece does not appear on their forthcoming album Luminous Rot, which shall be released on CD and DL formats via Southern Lord on 21st May, with the LP version arriving on 13th August. Pre-order information incoming soon.

On the new album, Nadja have refined their signature sound which combines the atmospheric textures of shoegaze and ambient/electronic music with the heaviness, density, and volume of metal, noise, and industrial. The duo retain their overblown/ambient sound, and explore shorter and more tightly structured songs reflecting their interests not only in metal, but post-punk, cold-wave, shoegaze, and industrial.

Thematically, the album explores ideas of ‘first contact’ and the difficulties of recognising alien intelligence. This was in part inspired by reading such writers as Stanislaw Lem and Cixin Lui — in particular, theories on astro-physics, multi-dimensionality, and spatial geometry in "The Three Body Problem" — as well as Margaret Wertheim’s "A Field Guide To Hyperbolic Space," about mathematician Daina Taimina’s work with crochet to illustrate hyperbolic space and geometry.

The album was recorded between their home studio, Broken Spine Studios, or Nadja’s live rehearsal studio, both in the district of Lichtenberg, Berlin.

Luminous Rot marks the first album mixed by someone else, who in this case was David Pajo. The band comment, “as big fans of Slint, we thought he might fore-front the more angular, post-punk elements of our music – the mix is quite different from our previous albums. But, as usual, we had James Plotkin (Khanate, OLD, etc) master the album as we trust his ears and aesthetic, as he’s mastered numerous records of ours.”

Watch the video here:

AA

Nadja

image by by Janina Gallert

Gizeh Records – 10th November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

This is certainly quite the collaborative lineup, featuring as it does Aidan Baker (Nadja / Caudal / B/B/S/), Simon Goff (Molecular, Bee & Flower), and Thor Harris (Swans, Shearwater, Thor & Friends). What renders Noplace all the more impressive is that it’s an improvised work, recorded in a single day.

As the press release recounts, ‘having known each other for a number of years and previously contributed to one another’s recordings this trio finally came together as a whole on May 7th 2017 at Redrum Studios in Berlin. In a short, improvised session of just a few hours they set about laying down as much material as possible which was then subsequently edited and re-worked (without overdubs) to form this album.’ And the results are quite something, and I very quickly manage to put aside the thought that the cover art reminds me of the film Up, minus the balloons.

Rippling strings quaver over softly swelling undercurrents while rolling percussion provides a subtle, unobtrusive rhythm as ‘Noplace I’ introduces the album before creeping into the darkness f counterpart piece ‘Noplace II’. And yet it’s very much only the beginning: having been moulded post-recording, the album’s seven individual pieces are structured and sequenced so as to lead the listener on an immersive journey which gradually and subtly moves from one place to entirely another.

‘Red Robin’ builds a pulsating, looping groove overlaid with creeping stealth. Its repetitious motif may owe something to the hypnotic cyclical forms of Swans, but its trance-inducing sonic sprawl also alludes to a hypnogogic reimagining of dance music – and this filters into the spacious ‘Noplace III’, which draws together expansive ambience and, in the distance, shuffling, tranced-out beats, to create something that stands in strange, murky Krautrock / dance territory. Yes, it sounds electronic. Yes, it sounds unique, but at the same time, yes, it sounds familiar in terms of the individual genre tropes. It’s ‘place’ is precisely ‘noplace,’ in that it belongs nowhere specific, yet appeals on many different levels and in many different ways.

Interweaving motifs continue to feature in ‘Tin Chapel,’, but the rhythm here is much more prominent, a weighty four-four bass/snare beat driving a linear road through the sweeping, strings that glide from mournful to tense. The locked-in psyche-hued desert rock bass groove pushes the piece forwards, while at the same time holding it firmly in one place. In turn, it tapers into the bleak, murky expanse that is ‘Northplace’.

The final composition, ‘Nighplace’, brings things down and almost full circle as the percussion retreats into the background amidst a wash of elongated drones which ebb and flow softly.

Noplace certainly doesn’t feel improvised, and while it’s remarkably cohesive, as well as possessing a strong sense of structure, it also reveals a remarkable range, both sonically and compositionally. And irrespective of any context, it’s an engaging and immersive aural experience.

AAA

GZH79-Baker-Goff-Harris-Noplace-Digital-Sleeve

Gizeh Records – GZH70 –4th November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Aiden Baker’s name features on a staggering number of releases, and while Nadja – the duo consisting of Baker and bassist Leah Buckareff – may only be one of many side-projects, the discography they’ve amassed since 2003 is substantial, to say the least. On The Stone is Not Hit by the Sun, Nor Carved With a Knife, they offer three immense ambient doom tracks which make for a welcome addition to that discography.

‘The Stone’ opens the album with a deep, slow bass. A delicate guitar is soon obliterated in a deluge of overdrive. Over the course of the track’s imposing twenty-two minutes, they build a pounding groove, the drum machine and bass in combination emphasising the heavy rhythms. Baker’s vocals are low in the mix, and with the textured, picked guitar chords, they straddle the grinding abrasion of Godflesh and the majestic shoegaze of Jesu. The contrast between the mechanical, industrial drum sound and the rich, organic sound of the guitar is integral to the sound, while the space between the notes is a core aspect of the composition: the stop / start mid-section of ‘The Stone’ jars the senses.

‘The Sun’ provides the album’s colossal, megalithic centrepiece. It takes its time to rise, and a steady, soft, meandering clean guitar and gentle, reverb-heavy vocal owes more to psychedelia and shoegaze than ambient or doom. But there’s a simmering tension that builds slowly but surely. The textures and tones gradually transition from clean to distorted, before drifting out into an extended ambient segment. Yawning drones roll and rumble: these are vast expanses of sound, twisting out toward an infinite horizon. And when the guitar and bass return, it’s with an even greater, more crushing force. The drums are distant, partially submerged by the snarling, thunderous bass and immense guitar which carries the listener on am oceanic expanse of sound.

A subtle, amorphous drone hovers atmospherically through the final track,’ Knife’. Arguably the album’s most ‘pure’ ambient passage, it’s hushed, mellow, almost soporific and marks a real contrast with the previous two tracks. There’s a part of me that, on first hearing, found ‘Knife’ a shade disappointing in context of the album as a whole: ‘The Stone’ and ‘The Sun’ set a certain expectation that, at some point, devastatingly heavy, thunderous bass, crashing drums and cinematic drone guitar will hit like a landslide, but it simply doesn’t happen. However, on reflection – and this is an album which requires much reflection – it’s a well-judged change of form. In confounding expectation on the final track, Nadja show that they’re not tied to formula.

In exploring the contrasts of volume, texture and mood, The Stone is Not Hit by the Sun, Nor Carved With a Knife is a more considered and ultimately rewarding work.

 

Nadja - The Stone is Not Hit