Monday, 7 June 2010

Nadja - Autopergamene (2010) 60/100.

To me, 2009 seemed like a subdued year for Nadja when, in actual fact, the Canadian duo of Aidan and Leah released five full-length albums and countless other pieces of material. Perhaps it was the slow nature of the year that made it seem so quiet on the Nadja front? It took Nadja a few months to get into their usual stride and, with the release of the cover album ‘When I See the Sun Always Shines on TV’, I cannot help but feel that 2009 was a bit of a let down. Aside from ‘Belles Betes’, which was actually a re-release of some of Aidan’s solo work, 2009 drew to a close in disappointing fashion with the Canadian duo failing to pick up where they left off the previous year. The momentum was something I was expecting to carry them onto greater things last year, but with the culmination of the year coming to an end with another collaboration and the lacklustre ‘Under the Jaguar Sun’, Nadja were suffering from a few niggles that had not affected their game in 2008, a year which saw them release many a hit, including ‘Desire in Uneasiness’ and ‘The Bungled & The Botched’.

So, with 2010 well under way, I was hoping for an onslaught at the beginning of the year but it sadly never came. Nadja had been, once again, rather subdued up until recently. Although the band released their first album in March of this year, it somehow managed to slip under the radar and evade public attention. Regardless of how this happened, I’m again feeling somewhat disappointed at Nadja’s efforts to promote their latest material. It used to come out in droves and the public were very aware of it but, nowadays, unless you’re following the band closely, their relations seem to go unnoticed, certainly to me. ‘Autopergamene’ is the first of the 2010 releases that I’ve heard and against my wishes, it seems to have reverted back to the older style. Although I’m fond of Nadja’s old style, with their mammoth distortion and slow build-ups, ‘Autopergamene’ takes things to ridiculous levels. Just as with ‘Radiance of Shadows’, I’ve found it challenging and difficult to get into this full-length. Two of the three songs eclipse the 25 minute mark and the one remaining song isn’t short either.

With a lack of ideas and originality, Nadja seem to be content with churning out the same sorts of material time and again, despite the fact that they’re beginning to sound alike across the board. With the tedious build-up of ‘You Write Your Name in My Skin’ dragging on the 10 minutes, one has to wonder if the tank is running on empty. Aidan and Leah seem to only be able to perform these days when they’re working on collaborative works, as they did with Pyramids. Unless they’re combining their efforts, Nadja are recycling the same compositional sound again and again. I appreciate the earlier works because they’re the originals, the so-called founders of the Nadja sound, but moving into 2010 and with Nadja confined to the same sound as in 2002 and 2003, one has to wonder whether on these collaborative works whether Nadja are being carried over the finishing line, as opposed to running a storming race by themselves. The first song is a calamitous effort and showcases precisely why the band need to move on to new, fresh pastures -- as infrequently explored with the acoustics and ambiance on the final song.

With an introduction that floats aimlessly for around 10, or 11 minutes, the listeners nerves are pushed to breaking point. Although the soft, lulling ambiance is nice to listen to on a dreary afternoon, it doesn’t become any more accessible than good background music, or a soundtrack to sleep to. The insomniac will be cured by the dreamy atmospherics of Nadja, particularly on the opening song which brings together the old classmates and forms a reunion of old sounds. The songs on this particular album do what they’ve always done and though it is a performance Nadja are used to, and good at providing, I cannot help but want more from the ambient drone masterminds. The addition of hazy, low vocals from Aidan is no longer sufficient enough to call experimentation because the ploy has been worked to death on previous albums. The second song, entitled ‘You Write My Name in Your Head’, is guilty of allowing the vocals to become the main experimental force, as Nadja have previously done on a few lowly EP’s. I do appreciate the finer touches, as in the acoustics on the third and final song, ‘You Write Your Name in My Blood’. These do provide a more accessible side to Nadja and would have gone nicely with clean vocals, a la ‘The Bungled & The Botched’. I think this is a side to Nadja that they could expand upon in the future. It’s very reflective, with a hint of sadness in the plucking of the ancient strings.

The vocals aren’t strong enough to steal the show, so we’re once again left with the bare bones of Nadja’s old style which includes ominous atmospherical build-ups and layers upon layers of guitar distortion. The bass doesn’t exist, though the soundscapes are bombastic enough through layers of static to operate fluidly without the bass. The drumming is as its always been. Repetitious, heavy and droning. It is meant to enhance the entrancing qualities of the atmosphere, something the guitars are capable of doing alone. Though I do enjoy the more metallic, droning moments of languid guitar effects and distortion, the vocals detract from songs like ‘You Write My Name in Your Head’ because they’re meant to supply the song with a more sinister sound. Instead they fade into the background and whimper like a feeble animal, cowering from an enormous, powerful predator. The guitars alone need only provide that sinister backdrop which shows that the song writing has taken a bump on the head because it lacks originality, despite being fluid in its projection of dreamy atmospheres and vast space. This album isn’t terrible by any means, but when you’ve come this far with Nadja, listening to every bit of material along the way, there does come a time when living up to expectations and old standards isn’t enough.

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