[Reviewed by: VITRIOL]
For anyone even remotely familiar with Nadja, the impossibility of pinning their work down to a genre or even adhering to a somewhat specific description for it becomes quite clear. The intimidating bulk of their discography as well as their tendency for continuous experimentation and mutation leaves no room for that. And it’s okay, because by discarding the automatism of trying to filter music through our usual channels, we are left free to simply enjoy its effects. Nadja’s sound is so specifically introverted and so exclusively intimate that it feels as if someone has removed the lid from off our unconscious side of the brain, and just allowed the contents to flow. Does it matter what they’re called? It depends on what phase the project is currently in, what type of recording is in question, what kind of mood we’re in. And so many things in between.
Even though I’ve never listened to a Nadja album I didn’t like, I’ve always been a little partial to their heavier moments, my favourites to this day remaining their first recordings, from “Corrasion” and “Touched” to just around “Bliss Torn From Emptiness”, and the more recent “Dagdrøm” where they returned to some of those formulas. Post-metal, dreamgaze, doomgaze and similar characterizations have been used at times to describe their music. Throughout their whole output it seemed as if they toyed with the balance between those two ‘scenes’, namely doom and post-rock. On the one hand offering the dreamy, abstract and ethereal imagery of shoegaze, on the other hand attacking the listener with heavy rifflines, layers of processed sounds and noise, and vocal distortions. Swinging towards one or the other direction according to where the winds of inspiration took them.
“Queller” is the intersection point. It’s melodic yet at the same time imposing, wonderfully tending towards the side of doom. It’s got an abstract atmosphere but a sturdy compositional structure – in fact it must be the most organized of their releases to date in terms of traditional song structure. The songs have a beginning, middle and end but if they wish to stray from the path nobody will stop them – the owner holds the leash but the animal leads the way. It’s got room both for vocals and noise. It’s an entity that evolves slowly and insidiously, like a predator coming out of the hot African desert, admirable and fearsome at the same time; all we can do is stand motionless, trying to deduct whether this beast is going to bite us or allow us to pet it.
The album contains four relatively short tracks for Nadja’s standards (believe it or not the longest track here is around 11 minutes long) that aren’t really four separate installments but rather one play divided into four acts. “Dark Circles” begins melodically with Aidan Baker’s ethereal-sounding vocals and then gradually swells and bursts into massive explosions of heavy guitars, bass and noise distortions, already creating a very tight and full sound. “Mouths” and “Lidérc” follow the same pattern of a deceitfully melodic beginning that very quickly morphs into the subtle static noise waves, shrill drones and rhythmic drumming that signal a departure from the confines of post-rock. As we progress further into the recording the airy shells suggested by the melodies acquire substance, the atmosphere becomes increasingly darker. The shrill, distorted vocals in “Lidérc” signal the entrance into a tunnel of blurred vision and warped imagination. And then “Quell”, that dispenses with the pleasantries to end the album in a monumental, crushing crescendo. Such a level of heaviness and escalation, the sheer beauty of which becomes almost unbearable.
“Queller” is like a cyclone that uproots everything in its path, its destructive force spiraling frantically around a black center of gravity, recycling the same relentless aural mantras until they become etched in the mind. The listener falls a helpless prey to this magnificent display of power. After this blast wave has hit nothing remains intact. Nothing to see but the debris extending all the way to the horizon, and the nuclear sun that burns above them. I don’t mean to exaggerate but I do believe this is the best Nadja release so far – I for one have it on repeat for some weeks now, and find myself incapable of stopping.
Nadja – Queller
Essence Music, ESSWAX01 / ESS021