Album Reviews

Nadja: Labyrinthine

The noise merchants combine with a raft of guests on their latest LP.

The term ‘career artist’ is one that has always been met with contempt. Art and career aren’t ones to make likely bedfellows; the latter term (in my mind at least) reserved for Wall Street wankers, and various other suited and booted vocations.

For artists who have been consistently making music for decades on end, it’s the kind of term that’s starting to get bandied about, and when an act like Nadja is defined as such, it only adds to the absurdity.

Nadja has been the rock on which the harsher sounds of shoegaze, drone and experimentalism was built. As trends come and go, Nadja’s Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff remain, never wavering to push their own creative boundaries while constantly immersed in their own sound world.

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Over the past 18 months, the evidence is clear in what has been the golden period for the band. Following last year’s excellent Luminous Rot, Nadja have continued to turn up the heat, firstly with the barrage of white noise that is Nalepa. So too Baker’s solo works, namely the slowcore-orientated You Are All At Once and Songs of Undoing. Two releases that push the envelope on slowcore, to the point where you won’t come across a better representation of the genre.

Striking while the iron is hot, Nadja return with their most anticipated release of the year, Labyrinthine.

Drafting in a range of guest vocalists, all of whom have been prominent within the esoteric creative landscape, Nadja reach beyond the dark frontiers that have provided inspiration for their punishing aural mastery, only to arrive at the gates hell.

Nadja - Labyrinthine

The first wave of tainted sorcery begins with the opening eponymous track. With an incessant feral animal howl from Khanate’s Alan Dubin, Nadja’s razor wire drones cascade into a barbed net of destruction. In some perverse way, Labyrinthine may just be the is lost track from Sleep’s Holy Mountain; the inner beast of Al Cisneros stirred and provoked only to emerge through the green haze.

Featuring Esben & The Witch’s Rachel Davies, Rue echoes a reconciliation between Swans and Jarboe. Nadja don’t conjure up anything pastiche here, though. Rue possesses more of a primal quality. Meditative even, as the smell of apocalypse fills the nostrils.

Shaking Hell: Supersonic Festival 2022

On Blurred, which features Elizabeth Colour Wheel’s Lane Shi Otayonii, the singer’s ghostly whisper drifts across frozen channels only to unravel into a hypnotic battle cry. And Nadja are only too happy to oblige, with fizzy slabs of noise creating the kind of backdrop of impending dread. Here Baker and Buckareff crank up the noise levels like never before, bursting like a ruptured vessel.

Cloaked in sheer misery, Necroausterity ends Labyrinthine emphatically. Full of Hell’s Dylan Walker rains the kind of terror you’d expect, delivering a vocal performance that exudes evil. This is the crossroads where drone, metal and hardcore meet, and it’s only fitting that Nadja are the nexus of such an assembly.

Here we see Nadja in new multi-faceted ways. A Nadja best-of without it really being that at all, Labyrinthine encapsulates the Nadja experience. A band forever reinventing ways to deliver their art and doing so in extreme ways. Just when you think they’ve covered every blade of grass across the terrains of experimental music, in true fashion, Nadja always keep surprising us.

It’s no different with Labyrinthine.

Labyrinthine is out now via Broken Spine (CD) / Katuktu Collective (US) /Cruel Nature Records (UK), Bad Moon Rising (Taiwan), Adagio830 (Germany), Muzan Editions (Japan), UR Audio Visual (Canada), Pale Ghoul (Australia), and WV Sorcerer (France/China).

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

3 replies on “Nadja: Labyrinthine”

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