Nadja: The Stone is not Hit by the Sun, nor Carved with a Knife (Gizeh Records, 2016)
Nadja is the collaborative project between Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff, both who are no strangers to ambient, noise, avant-garde music. The project originally began with Baker in 2003 in order to give him a separate project with which to explore heavier pieces. In 2005, Buckareff joined and this allowed Nadja to perform live, moving simply beyond a studio project. To place Nadja within the framework of a specific genre is difficult. To call it ambient doom-metal would not be off the mark. The Stone is not Hit by the Sun, nor Carved with a Knife is only four tracks but it is almost 80 minutes in length. Baker and Buckareff invite the listener on a journey that is both filled with deep, resounding noise as well as subtle textures and melodies.
The Stone is not Hit by the Sun, nor Carved with a Knife begins with “The Stone”, a twenty-two-minute track that utilizes a palate of unrelenting fuzzed out sound and noise. The tempo is plodding, perhaps depicting the Sisyphean stone being pushed up the mountain again and again. The track begins as light strumming, favoring one speaker. Then changes into stereo and then erupts into fuzzed out guitars at about 57 seconds. Bass and drums join the mix at this point as well. There are subtle noises, perhaps from the strings of a violin. Baker provides vocals that are set deep into the mix, lending an eerie tone to the already deep, plodding guitars. This is the kind of music you soak in, sit deep in. It evokes images of strife, conflict, and darkness. The wall of sound eventually is peeled away to present a more stripped down presence but the fuzz still remains and the relentlessness of it all is still very much a central part of “The Stone”.
This leads into “The Sun”, which is signaled by bursts of fuzz with dead silence that, in their own way, are incredibly unsettling. Baker’s vocals enter the mix again, ghostlike and ominous. The guitar is joined by snare, thrusting out of the speakers and then melodic guitars converse amid the fuzz. Multiple textures, sonics, and noises eventually join the cacophony marching forward in a ponderous fashion. The melodic moments really give this feel of structure among the rattled brokenness that swirls around in the composition. Eventually, there is a build to a sort of release that hangs in the air like a deep, throbbing drone then light guitar is strummed, giving the listener room to breathe.
“The Knife” begins with a hum and a guitar playing a short melody. Little changes in the guitar enter the mix as it progresses and then high-hat acts as a metronome. Deep, throbbing toms become present while subtle sounds and textures work their way among the cracks in the soundscapes. Baker once again contributes ethereal vocals here. There is a more shoegazery feel here with a slow, careful tempo. Giant walls of sound build over the course of minutes. Baker and Buckareff are patient, utilizing a vast array of tools to paint an abstract soundscape that begs the listener to take an unfamiliar journey with them. There are moments where the “form” in the track, usually shaped by percussion and a guitar melody, just disappears into an amorphous wall of tones, textures, and sounds. At about 31 minutes in, the layers begin to peel back. This reveals a drone which has a fuzzed out texture floating along it.
The final track, which is untitled, feels most like a film score from the beginning. Still, Baker and Buckareff masterfully play with sound textures, sonics, and tones. When you listen more than once, you end up picking up new subtleties every time. Another nuance that Baker and Buckareff bring to the table is the use of left or right speakers. They will produce a sound in one speaker to draw the listeners’ attention in that direction while very understated and interesting things are happening in the other. Again, this album provides many surprises when one pays attention to all the pieces involved. The track threatens to erupt into loud walls of sound but never does. In this way, the listener is lulled into the soundscape but kept a bit on edge as it moves forward.
Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff have produced four tracks that cause the listener to soak in a deep pool of sounds, textures, and controlled noise. The emotive range evoked from the four tracks moves between disturbing to calm and tranquil. Baker and Buckereff are masters at their craft and having them work together in one project has brought about a brilliant piece of abstract art.
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