London-based three piece Nedry serves up a decidedly mixed bag: a bit of dubstep, a bit ambient, a bit prog. They released their first album in 2010, and it’s to their credit that they’ve already managed to craft a unique and fully formed sound. Whatever you say about the final product, it always sounds like a cohesive whole despite the range of influences that can be clearly heard in it. The whole is a decidedly acquired taste, though, and the band’s sophomore album In a Dim Light creates a tense feeling that, while very intentional, is not always easy on the ears.
Nothing about the band is more love it or hate-it than lead singer Ayu Okakita’s voice. Undeniably expressive, it’s an almost animal mix of purrs, gasps, and atonal moans that seems to have only a lose connection to the techno-ish beats that animate a song like “Post Six.” It’s a unique experience, but not necessarily a good one: Okakita experiments with unusual cadences, a metallic twing that modulates her words, and she practically claws her way from moment to moment. Mostly, it comes off as a bit shallow, like an actor chewing the scenery and trying to steal a spotlight.
It just doesn’t have either the depth or pleasantness of what musicians like Julia Holter are doing with vocal work. There’s something about track two, “Post Six,” that is just fundamentally uncomfortable to listen to, like a dream where something chases you down identical metal hallways while your ears ring. While that may well have been what the band is going for, it’s definitely not for everyone. In other cases, like “I Would Rather Explode” the vocals are just sounds, not particularly innovative or interesting, but not really distracting either.
Getting beyond the vocals, the techno elements and the ice cold detached pace of this album creates the perfect soundtrack for some movie that doesn’t exist yet: some kind of neo-noir fusion with a breath of influences as wide as Nedry’s. And lots of rain. And maybe one of those vampire nightclubs, with flashing lights and leather.
“Violacea” is a winner of a track, mixing a simmering backing beat with more subdued vocals and well-used samples of rain and static to create a perfect sonic composition. Havana Nights picks up the energy a bit and makes excellent use of the more cold, mechanical influences (Is that a typewriter clicking in the background, or just something that sounds a lot like one? Either way, it works very well.) of Nedry. If it didn’t overstay it’s welcome at more than five minutes, it would have been nearly perfect. That’s a problem that we come back to on “TMA” a good track with an awful, faux-hardcore fadeout that leaves a bad taste in the listeners mouth.
While the compositions can get pretty technical, this never stops being music that needs to be experienced on a primal level. Lyrical arrangements are either non-existent or largely irrelevant. Nedry is a band that aims, in their post-rock post-everything way, to hit you squarely in the guts. Whether that’s pleasant or unpleasant varies from track to track, but it’s always memorable.
Nedry – In a Dim Light tracklist:
- “I Would Rather Explode”
- “Post Six”
- “Havana Nights”
- “Dust Till Dawn”
- “Land Leviathan”