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Nadja: Body Cage

Another whopper of a release from this Canadian project, again with a set of three lengthy slabs of pulsing, droning material that walks a fine line between ambient, drone, and doom. For those unaware, the band is headed by Aidan Baker, perhaps better known for his dark ambient experimentalism (here handling guitar, drum machines, vocals, and flute), joined on this outing by Leah Buckareff on bass and vocals. There are definitely some similarities between his solo work and the compositions explored by Nadja, perhaps more so on this particular outing, but overall these tracks are still structured more like songs, so despite a good level of ambience this is definitely an entity all its own. “Clinodactyl” tops 21 minutes and takes the first nine to build in with pulsing drones and gradually increasing feedback/electronics with a very sparse percussive backing maintaining a sense of actual tempo and rhythm behind a melodic bass loop. Once the volume reaches its peak the drums launch into a more concrete beat that pounds away as the guitars and bass surge forth into a strangely abstract yet recognizable arrangement that creates a wall of sound that very curiously follows a melody line, though the sounds are so fused together that there’s not much definition. Unfortunately that’s both good and bad, because the way the melodic progression is abstracted is actually fucking awesome, but the actual sound quality feels too raw and overpowering on some level. For example, the drum machines seem to sound pretty natural and effective for the most part (granted they are too loud in the mix most of the time), but once everything thickens up to full volume the louder drum hits sound distorted, like they’re caving in on themselves. And that may well be intentional, but since there’s no real breathing room to be found it sounds dirty and accidental instead, and there are certain facets of the guitars/bass that sound a little unnatural as well. And once the lulled singing vocals kick in, you really have a hard time making out anything other than some of the snare drums and cymbals, because the mix feels so muddy and messy that a ton of detail is getting lost. “Autosomal” opens similarly from a percussive standpoint, but the dingy basslines are given more room to be heard, with only fleeting electronics cascading across the lower levels of the mix. At 10 minutes this track is much shorter than the other two, so it builds in a little faster with whispered and manipulated vocals that pan back and forth while fading in and out over a thundering drum pattern and noisy vibrations, but things still feel very gradual. This piece actually has an industrial sort of angle to it, though not very directly, and I actually think it’s a little more effective as a whole, though I do miss the powerful melodies of the opener. Those melodies return in subdued form at the start of 20+ minute closer “Ossification”, softly introducing the piece and increasing in volume as they begin to fade back against a churn of light electronics. Drums finally enter around 11 minutes in, but this instrumental piece is fairly subdued and consistent from start to finish, making it my favorite track overall since it’s the one segment that plays through without a hitch. The CD-R comes in a slim DVD case with minimal abstract artwork and clean, consistent text. It’s fairly raw and basic, but were the print quality stronger it would look nice and effective for what the music offers. The lyrics are inspired by a rare genetic disorder called Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva, in which muscles and other connective tissue turn into bone and cause eventual paralysis. “Every little touch, glance, word, sinks into my skin, burrows within my flesh and digs its claws in me…” For the most part this is a stronger release than “Skin Turns to Glass”. The drum programming has certainly progressed, and the overall quality of the compositions is more emotional and moving on this outing. So… I’m definitely intrigued by this project and will want to hear more, but there is still room for improvement. I actually think there’s an absolute mountain of potential residing within this very work, but the recording quality definitely needs to take a step up in order to allow tracks like “Clinodactyl” to be as monumental as possible. I could see myself being very much blown away by Nadja in the future, so I’m hoping that’s what will happen, because I feel pretty strongly that there are a lot of strong building blocks in place on this record.
-aversion online.

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