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A collaboration between Japanese self-proclaimed "brutal hardcore" orchestra Vampillia and Canadian duo Nadja on guitar drone noise, "Primitive World" is short and compact enough that it can be heard as one 39-minute track. The album starts off well enough with a solo piano melody that jumps about a fair bit but isn't too frilly. After six minutes of ivory-tickling and mild guitar noise rain, the two bands weigh in with their barrage of layered guitar texture distortion, solid and sometimes lumpen percussion and a solemn mood. The sound is very raw and crusty, the pace is slow and the beat is sombre and hints of something momentous to happen.
The major track "Icelight", running for some 23 minutes, has an epic quality with long searing guitar tones leaving burning bits of lava behind, a heavy monstrous vocal in the background, frightening ghost-like effects and ponderous drumming but after some time the monotonous nature of the track starts to pall. Apart from the never-ending build-up in tension with only the details of the track showing variations, "Icelight" appears impervious to anything remotely resembling development in structure, instrumentation or atmosphere. Acoustic instruments may be brought in during latter parts of the track but they are minor and seem like a bit of an after-thought. In its latter half when the solo piano dominates, the track sounds fussy with the keyboard prettiness competing against the raw guitar and massive drumming. Resolution, when it comes, is very disappointing as the music seems to melt and dissipate into nothing definite.
"Anesthetic Depth" is a more ghostly ambient piece: quite a relief from the lumbering mess that preceded it. The wobbly guitar notes, floating and wavering in space, have a watery, uncertain quality. Halfway through, guitars and what sounds like a violin section generate an uneasy and brittle feather-like texture. Outro piece "Call from Eternity" is a bombastic piano indulgence with an antiquated sepia-tinted ambience that recalls sideshow freak performances. A sheet metal background wash hustles the melody out of sight.
This collaboration could have been something like Godspeed You Black Emperor meets Godflesh in brutal force and sheer passion: the heavy, noisy layers of raw and crust-laden guitar drone of Nadja giving bite and substance to Vampillia's energetic and spirited music. Unfortunately on "Primitive World", the two acts ditch risk-taking which might have led to an original if demented improvised performance and stick to a very narrow comfort zone of droning monotonous sound textures. The result is tasteful and restrained but not inspiring or brimming with creative ideas of which most might not be fully realised in the 40-minute time slot and might remain underused and undervalued for ever more. But that's the nature of striking out ahead and experimenting with one another's ideas and style elements.
Been off Nadja for a fair while- their tendency towards bad colllabs, the huge amount of albums I already have, the fact that I'd played them to death- been near a year or so since they've been on my regular playlist. Can't keep a good band down though; the potentially lethal mix of curiousity and boredom found a fairly harmless way out in the form of me giving their earlier stuff a listen (still amazing) and seeing which obscure/bad band they're making noise with now. But lo, this is actually very good! As with the other good Nadja collabs- Black Boned Angel, Pyramids, maybe Atavist- it's focused, works for a common purpose, and (most importantly) it features consistently good music.
The music here's pretty cool and (as far as I can tell anyway) a real simple melding of the two bands together. The sky-sized slabs of guitar noise; still there, but less free form and more focused into riffing then usual mixing in with some pretty neat pianolating from (I assume, anyway) the Vampilla. Bit of acoustic guitar sneaks in here and there, a few neat little bits of electronic trickery- nothing too flash or crazily ambitious, but shit works. Yeah, the results are very satisfying- Northern Lights is the closest to a post-rock tune that Nadja will probably ever do; the mix of solo piano and huge guitar walls definitely shouldn't work but does, and brilliantly so; whereas Anesthetic Depth's long, muted build and quick release leaves one perfectly satisfied. Perhaps restraint on bands' parts are what make this so excellent? You definitely get the feeling that they spent a fair bit of time trimming all the fat out of this release.
'Course you can talk about restraint and focus and all that but what makes this record as good as it is is the most visceral, most drawn out track. The centrepiece of the album is what makes this so good, though. 'Icefields'- certainly the heaviest, the most muscular, the most straight out metal thing Nadja's done since Touched- and definitely the best song that they (and by extension, anyone) has done in a long, long time. A real tour de force of riffs- what Echoes of Yul would sound like if they levelled up a lot- with a long, drawn out coda full of some huge drones and piano shimmering over the top. It's a massive, massive track that leaves you rather drained, sweating profusely and with a huge shit eating grin on your face. I'd do terrible things to hear it live!
And that's it! Perhaps another reason why this album is so good is because of the relative brevity; an intro and outro, two short (for nadja) tracks, and the 24 minute behemoth sitting there in the middle. Punishing, beautiful, surprisingly heavy- the best Nadja release for a long time! Buy or die!!!!