Is it a sign of the times that Nice Nice had to restart the recording of their latest album from scratch, not as a result of something so catastrophic as a studio fire or a tape-reel bandit, but because their computer crashed? Maybe so. After all, we’re living in the future, as Bruce Springsteen would have it. And as such, Extra Wow is a fittingly complex and layered soundtrack for our newfound, particle-colliding multiverse.
When one thinks of Portland, Oregon, immediate and undeniable imagery comes to mind, largely focusing on bearded and bespectacled vegans who bike to work and scour used record bins for lost gems to round out their Sergio Mendes LP collections. Musically, Portland has served as the birthplace of such neo-folkies as Blitzen Trapper, Blind Pilot and M Ward, just to name a few. But Nice Nice defy categorisation, and they do a nice (nice) job of handily shirking the aural mould of their hometown, and creating something surprisingly different and devoid of earmarked geography.
Jason Buehler and Mark Shirazi – who’ve been playing as Nice Nice since the dying embers of the last century first started to wink out – have put out 10 albums in as many years. For Extra Wow, the duo join in the Warp Records future-folk psychedelia movement (fitting in nicely alongside labelmates Autechre, Battles, and !!!).
Extra Wow, as a whole, meanders from influence to influence, mixing electronica, acid-rock, world music and a seemingly bottomless bag of dissonant rattlings and computerised blips and beeps. Vocals are occasional, and they’re always buried in the mix and enveloped in a shoegaze sea of reverb. You’ll find no verse-chorus comfort here; instead Nice Nice deal in swirling loops and ever-building cacophonous angularity.
Album opener Set And Setting serves as the high-water mark for experimentation on the album, beginning with a disjointed drone, mixing elements of Tomorrow Never Knows with Ten Storey Love Song, and it proceeds to construct and deconstruct (even self-destruct) at shocking intervals, weaving sitars, guitars, and pounding drums into a top-heavy wall of jarring sound. One Hit, the unlikely first single, thrashes with raw electric intensity, feeding into A Way We Glow, which opens on a neon rainforest, alive with bioluminescent beasties intent on doing you harm.
This ebb and flow is the way of the album, and while the music is never easy to listen to – you won’t get See Waves stuck in your head, no matter how you might try – it’s a rewarding listen. Extra Wow is divided into 13 tracks, but it may as well be one hour-long opus.
And by the time It’s Here smoulders to its sighing end, you’ve got an idea that Nice Nice are not only deceptively adept musicians operating deftly in a fringe sonic medium and constructing pocket anti-symphonies, but they may well be secret geniuses. Extra Wow is well worth the effort for those willing to invest in navigating its eddying murkiness; for the rest, it’ll come off as ill-conceived and hyper-pretentious.� There are no easy answers in the future.