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Nadja – Excision

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Most bands when releasing a collection of otherwise placeless split vinyl album tracks and remixes end up with a selection of shorter pieces compiled into what often ends up as some sort of a grab-bag of odds and ends. Not so with Nadja, who fit just four tracks on each CD of this two-disc set of recordings from 2007-08, and who also manage to make a coherent whole in the process, if perhaps in part through long-form osmosis – but what a way to trickle down…

“Jornada del Muerto” and “Perichoresis,” which open disc 1, come from a pair of split LPs which also featured solo tracks from Leah Buckareff and Aidan Baker. Here together their summed bass, guitar and drums (synthetic or otherwise) lay out the groundwork for the first quarter with a stately climb into signature doomscapes which languidly clobber the listener into submission, almost bring tears to the eyes at the singular all-encompassing hugeness of the sound they create over nearly 40 minutes of relentless intensity. The poised, hesitant moment of glitched capture at the heart of the latter in particular prefigures a staggeringly crushing release into scalding washes of superheated slow-motion guitar and FX burn, the like of which is at once awe-inspiringly enveloping – almost threateningly so – and impossible to resist; and that’s just for starters.

“Autosomal” appears in two forms, both remixes of over 20 minutes duration each of the track on 2005’s Bodycage album. The first (version 2) comes on gritty and harsh before eliding gently into chorused guitar and and an iced-up drum machine which appears to be slowly freezing almost solid into the depths of the mix. Meanwhile the detritus of guitar and bass crepitate and hover expectantly around decaying orbits before ramping up the noise threshold into the echoplexed red. By contrast, version 3 reverses the dynamic entirely, opening frostily and taking its time to languor in the emulsifying tones and harmonics – are there voices in there, is there rhythm? Perhaps, though it’s never likely to give a straight answer, instead curling in upon its tail-swallowing, deep-space worm-holed self with an almost logarithmic inevitability.

The immense drone’n’scrape of “[post=nadjakodiak-split-album text=”Kitsune (Fox Drone)”]” bounces in stately procession across the stereo spectrum with the purposeful deliberation of a freighter manoeuvring in thick fog along the glacial waters of a far-Northern fjord. If ever there was a track to answer the difficult question (more tricky than might be expected) of “what do Nadja sound like then?” – this might be it. The equally lengthy and evocatively titled “Kriplyana (Melted & Refrozen Snow That Looks Blue In Early Morning)” gives another potential answer, unfurling in suitably greyscaled tones of meteorologically -themed synaesthesia with all the speed and swiftness of a long spring thaw melting into phased nullity, the last minute or so consisting of reflective, emptied, silence. On the other hand, “Clinging To The Edge Of The Sky”is Nadja in Earth-like melodic mode, taking a step back from the febrile intensity of the rest of the album and reflecting on their calmer side (which while less common, is equally typical on occasion).

So much for the idea that Excision is any sort of scrapings of a very full back-catalogue – it’s more like a best-of Nadja album, and would also make an ideal introductory collection for those unfamiliar with this most overwhelming of bands – and those who are already fans will likely revel in it.

-Richard Fontenoy-

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