Bad Elephant Music have fresh act with a new release, and what a signing this is! Martin Hutchinson (Head of Sales, Marketing and PR for Bad Elephant) says of the album:
“It isn’t for the faint hearted but (it’s) bloody awesome.”
These are not just hollow words from a cynical recording company executive, designed to sell the album. OK, they may well be just hollow words from a cynical recording company executive, designed to sell the album…but that makes them no less true.
This is proper stuff.
“N.y.X’s wholly unique, iconoclastic sound is further enhanced here by the matchless contributions of two of King Crimson’s finest: Adrian Belew and Trey Gunn both lend their guitar and soundscaping talents to the album, and additional guest appearances by jazz pianist Ivan Bridon Napoles and cellist Marco Allocco further enhance the mix, combining their own fine musicianship with the band’s artistic vision to conjure a concept piece overflowing with creativity.”
…so says the Bad Elephant.
My copy was a download, but even here there’s some clever packaging, riding on the theme of the title The News and emulating the pages from a newspaper to display the information we would normally expect on an album cover. I could enter into whether or not this is a concept album but I am sure that other reviewers will cover that. It looks like one. It sounds like one! If it walks and quacks like a duck… though it should be pointed out that there may be a cuckoo in the nest as Oscillations Du Chaos – Parts 1 & II appeared on their eponymous 2004 album whilst Part III features here. I could further explore the history of the band in this review but the bottom line is: what was my impression and is this album worth listening to? Well, I’m not holding my cards close to my chest here in an effort to present a big reveal at the end of the review. This review isn’t what is important here. The question is whether this 46 minutes of music is worth your five quid.
What? Only five quid?
SO, why this early conclusion and what of my witterings on the subject? I think I may have discovered a new genre: Heavy Mental! Ironic, as I am always quick to confess how clueless I am when it comes to categorizing music by genre! If you’d like me to use a genre label then N.y.X may be a Marmite band. (That’s one, isn’t it)?
When I start listening to any downloaded album for review purposes I always start with the last track. Why? Because my player (WINAMP) is insane. And in this case, apt. The Daily Dark Delirium, is a bit bloody mental. The first playthrough of this album was with Mrs Phil, The Boy and The Other One in the room as The Daily Dark Delerium pumped out of my computer speakers. I started making notes.
Mrs Phil didn’t like this music, and said so. I loved it on first listen. As we all know, that isn’t always a good sign. We can all too soon tire of music we like straight away. But that is usually a ‘like’ founded on a hook or a melody. This ‘like’ was founded on my overall impression of the sound and feel of this music. And I am happy to report that many listening on it is still impressing me. To be fair to Mrs Phil, she has a broad, if flawed taste in music (well she didn’t like this so – flawed) and is a big fan of The Foo Fighters, who I would describe as “quality pop/rock”. But this music is chalk to the Foo’s cheese. Not that the Foo Fighters are cheesy. [EDITOR: hole getting so much deeper the sides are collapsing]
Anyway, perhaps it will grow on Mrs Phil?!
The Other One, a nineteen year old with her own ideas on what is good and bad and whose opinions I respect even if I don’t necessarily agree, voiced her verdict: “Are you listening to that on purpose?”, to which I replied: “Yes – You know NOTHING – get out”!
The Boy is less forthcoming about his opinions. “Retro”, he said. I disagree.
Why are they all so very wrong and still living in my house? Because they don’t have any frame of reference for this music. I don’t think this is one of those albums that you can dismiss because it “sounds too much like…”, you have to take it on its own merits. Too much “sounds like” is not a good thing for me but, let’s face it, you need a bit. They probably need more “sounds like”. Some of us need more than others. That is why they are flawed human beings and I disassociate myself from them. And I told them so.
As I finish this review, slowly and painfully from the lounge of my new home (suspiciously similar to the interior of my car) I conclude that there are just enough noises in here for me to give a degree of comfortable familiarity – and I need very little – and a point of reference from which to start my little journey of N.y.X discovery as I glance through the classifieds for a cheap bedsit.
Talking of “sounds like”, it is ironic that Steven Wilson is often criticised for musical references to ’70s prog and the start of the 12 minute track 7 sounds uncannily like Let’s Sleep Together from Porcupine Tree’s Fear Of A Blank Planet… for about eight bars. But then the vocal starts and the significance of all similarity to other bands starts to diminish. It is almost completely gone by about 5 minutes into the song.
With retro synth sounds a la Tangerine Dream, cascading scales akin to the best Prog Rock bands of the 1970s, riffs made of osmium, soundscapes up there with the best chillout music (although chillout music this definitely is not), there really should be something for everyone. Everyone, that is, who can leave behind preconceptions of what they do and do not like. But here’s the killer thing… to enjoy this album you must be led by the desire to hear something that will make you feel uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable as in “this seat doesn’t recline far enough and the hand brake is sticking in my back”, I mean as in your “Comfort Zone”.
By the way, where is “up there”?
King Crimson alumni, Adrian Belew and Trey Gunn’s appearances on the album, on tracks 3 and 7 respectively, will naturally make you draw a comparison with KC. There are obvious musical cues and possibly some inspiration from that quarter – there is even something that might be compared to Robert Fripp’s early hints at Frippertronics. But in places this music makes King Crimson, one of the bands voted by NASA scientists in 1969 to be “more out of this World than the Moon Landings” and “most likely to scare hippies”, sound like One Direction. And I don’t even know what “exaggerate” means.
The News isn’t all heavy dissonance and In Your Face power. There are lighter sounding pieces like the middle third of Track 3, A Sarcastic Portrait (Editorial, Home and Foreign…) and track 4, Discord (Domestic Policies) which probably has an early seventies psychedelic vibe and the oppressive and insistently menacing track 5, The Paper (Titles and Subtitles). Track 4 might be the closest thing to easy listening on the album, with a foundation of acoustic guitar and a lead electric guitar solo, followed up with a piece that seems to capture the muse that may have inspired some of our favourite Progressive Rock musicians of olden days. N.y.X may be acknowledging that era with a nod in that direction but nobody could accuse them of regurgitating classic prog or space rock or psychedelic bands with cleverly emulated but modified musical tricks. This sounds very new to me.
When all is said and done this is hard listening. In a good way. It sounds great on my car stereo playing over bluetooth from my phone. But the bass lines, the whispering, slightly demented-sounding voice of Walt F. Nyx, the rhythmical, occasionally soaring guitars and the soundscapes are so engaging that this fits neatly into the sort of stuff I hope to hear periodically. This is why I don’t jump on the [insert your genre here]-is-dead bandwagon. I want other people to hear this so that they can have that Navin Johnson epiphany;
“If this is out there, think how much MORE is out there!”
Indeed it may not be for the faint-hearted. But this music washes away the seemingly ubiquitous flood of 21st century mediocrity with its noisy and insane innovation. What’s the worst that can happen if you have access to a car or a tent?
Non, je ne regrette rien! So take a leap of faith and go for it!
01. Restless Slumber (At The Break Of Dawn) (4:43)
02. Groundhog Day (Wakening, Dressing, Starting Up…) (7:09)
03. A Sarcastic Portrait (Editorial, Home and Foreign…) (6:14)
04. Discord (Domestic Policies) (7:20)
05. The Paper (Titles & Subtitles) (5:25)
06. Oscillations Du Chaos – Part III (3:23)
07. The Daily Dark Delirium (12:52)
Total Time – 47:06
Walt F. Nyx – Lead Vocals, Bass, Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Synthesizers, Electric Piano, Loops & Devices
Danilo A. Pannico – Electronic & Acoustic Drums & Percussion, Piano, Synthesizers, Typewriter, Kaos-Harmonica, Gold Chain, Italian Voice (track 6), Loops & Devices
Klod – Electric Guitar, Backing Vocals, Soundscapes & Devices
Adrian Belew – Electric Guitar & Soundscapes (track 3)
Ivan Bridon Napoles – Piano & Keyboards (track 6)
Marco Allocco – Cello (track 2)
Trey Gunn – Warr Guitar & Soundscapes (track 7)
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Produced by: N.y.X & David Elliott of B.E.M.
Country of Origin: Italy
Release Date: 26th February 2016