Album Reviews

Nedry – Condors

(Monotreme) UK release date: 22 February 2010

There is something unknowable about London-based trio Nedry. The biog tells us of their “shared first love of the movie Jurassic Park“, and that their collaboration started with a series of interactions across the internet. With a combination of British and Japanese members, it is possible that the fusion of different cultural inspirations, as well as the undoubted musical juxtapositions found on this, their debut album, are partly responsible. What is more certain, however, is the gripping and frequently quite remarkable nature of their output.

What the band do, in the main, is to combine all kinds of electronic, synthesised sounds (bleeps, glitches, keyboard tunes, strange effects and all) with the deepest, bassiest dubstep-style bass. So, sounds like an off-the-hook telephone bleep, sirens, computer game bloops and drops of rain meet the occasional acoustic or electric guitar, rhythmic drum break and lots and lots of floor-trembling bass. Over the top of all this is then placed Ayu Okakita‘s striking voice; part little-girl-lost, part haunting/haunted siren, she adds another rich, if perplexing, layer.

The overall effect is often unsettling. But if Apples And Pears and Where The Dead Birds Go are bordering on creepy, then Squid Cat Battle is positively hair-raising. Okakita starts the track sounding like a slightly harder-edged Bj�rk, accompanied by some unexpected electric guitar riffs. But then she takes on a fearful, almost possessed tone, as she declaims lines like “When I look into your eyes / They turn into black holes” with increasing terror. A terror shared with the listener, who’s never entirely sure of the causes of this fear and neurosis, but who at the same time could never doubt its veracity.

What makes this, along with many of the other songs on the album, so interesting is the disorientation this all imposes. Lyrics and themes are oblique, intangible, often just out of reach, and the deep, woozy, almost liquefying bassline – reaching its apogee in the brilliant Scattered – contributes to the sense of befuddlement.

Occasional snippets of lyric can be made out but render things little clearer, like the exhortation “Come close to me / No-one’s awake” from A42; or the references to someone or something “lost in fire” in Apples And Pears. Other tracks are either instrumental, like Scattered, where the lack of vocal is more than compensated for by the fast, furious, dark and urgent bassline melody; or reliant on non-verbal singing, like the “ooh ooh” refrain which is layered up and delivered like a round, before flickering like a badly-tuned radio and fading to nothing on the closing track Where The Dead Birds Go. The genre/style boundaries are even stretched as far as punk-funk-meets-improv on the danceable, fidgety title track.

Particularly impressive is that the music never feels incoherent or thrown together. The band always, somehow, emerge with a compelling and coherent voice, albeit a strange and often dark one. On the best tracks (A42, Apples And Pears, Squid Cat Battle, Scattered) and even those that might be classed as slightly less outstanding (Condors, Swan Ocean) it’s always plain that this band have a clear idea of where they’re taking the listener, even if the listener is a little frightened or a little lost, yet still, in all probability, involved and entranced. Quite astonishing.

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Nedry – Condors