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‘The Life and Death of a Wasp’ is probably the weirdest Nadja full-length to date, bar none. This is another, in a long line of, collaborative efforts. This time the Canadian duo of Aidan and Leah have teamed up with German based noise rock band Ovo for the very first time. They’re an act who I know very little about, just snippets of information I have managed to obtain via the internet. In actual fact, until this full-length, I had no idea that Ovo, who consist of Stefania Pedretti and Bruno Dorella respectively, even existed. Although not to the same extent, Ovo have a number of records themselves, none of which I’ve heard, therefore I cannot make comparisons to their individual efforts, though I can assure you there are a few qualities here and there that reminds me of older Nadja records at the beginning, particularly the soothing ‘Desire In Uneasiness’, but most of the material feels fresh as Nadja are exploring new territories. The album unfolds like a poem, particularly that of ‘The Fly’ by William Blake. The instrumentation portrays the life of a happy fly at the beginning and how he is content to just amble around the kitchen, but when man comes into the picture, the life of the bee is turned upside down and altered forever by his, or her thoughtless actions. Until the poem of William Blake, this album doesn’t feel anywhere near as essential, though it does a good job at conveying such simplicity and the panic which presumably sets in once you know you’re going to die.
In terms of who has provided what, I’m completely unsure. I do know for a fact that Stefania provides the insanely weird vocals which, although laughable due to her style, are incredibly clever since they take shape in a way that makes them sound like a buzzing bee, particularly on songs like ‘A Wasp Flying Around The Sugar Jar’. The vocals do vary with the occasional harsher tone provided, but her unusual style is the basis of the vocal material here. I don’t appear to be the only person to have a love/hate relationship with her performance as she has single handily shut the door in many peoples faces’ due to her unique approach to vocals. Although her voice is completely and utterly ridiculous, it really does serve a purpose on this album and is a shrewd bit of initiative on the part of whoever decided to use her as the primary vocalist. Her vocals, at their cleanest and harshest, provide a sound which really does remind me of some form of flying insect and given the nature of the record, this fit’s the bill exceedingly well. ‘Drowned in Coffee’ is a particularly smart track. It’s conveyed in such a way through the heavy drumming that makes it feel like death is looming over us, whilst the odd vocals express the end of life in a very animalistic way.
However, there is simply no escaping the awkwardness of her performance. She stretches the boundaries of belief with her performance on each song, including ‘Trapped In The Jar’ where her voice takes an unexpected turn towards a more visceral sound. It truly does make me think of an insect trying with all its might to escape the jaws of death. The panic in her voice, the sheer anxiety is brilliant. She’s one hell of an unusual vocalist and although I really cannot stomach her voice too much, or too often, her performance is fitting! When I first heard this album, though, I did think this was some sort of in-joke between the musicians, but the song writing, slowing drifting ambiance of the swelling guitars, slow moving audible bass and strong vocal displays demand respect for the sheer imagination that has gone into this conception. Although I really wouldn’t rate it anywhere near the best of the best that Nadja have produced, it does command the attention of the listener for the entirety simply because it’s unique and special in such a formulaic sub-genre. The song writing makes sure that each area of the instrumentation, from the audible bass to the typically swelling guitars of the Nadja mould, play a role in the atmospheric build-up, but the instrumentation itself is very forgettable when the vocals begin to dominate and draw in heaps of ridicule and negativity.
This record, which is much shorter than your average Nadja piece, isn’t formulaic in the slightest. Though each song contains its own titbit of repetition through either the atmospheric presence of the guitars, or the drumming, there is still enough variation throughout each of the songs to suggest this is an out-of-the-ordinary display by Nadja. Usually on their collaborations Nadja tend to either hit the nail on the head, or swan-dive into a pool of shit and this piece is no different. The levels of creativity may be high and the images the music conveys may be exactly what the bands had in mind beforehand, but the record is far too weird for its own good. The vocals are especially difficult to like, though I can understand why they’ve been shaped into this form. Stefania doesn’t necessarily ruin the album, but she plays a significant part in its downfall. The absurdity of the vocals, even when they change to a more typical variation, are a huge contributor to the problematic offering. Songs like ‘Put Some Sugar in My Cup, Please’, for example, indicate that she has a more familiar shape to her voice in her doomier style, reminding me somewhat of Corrupted. This full-length is smart and conveyed in such a way that seems intelligent, like the mournful ‘Drowned in Coffee’ with its guitar effects and ambiance, but the album, and vocals, are just far too weird to be considered essential.