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Nadja – Touched

Consouling Sounds

Nadja - TouchedThis is a first for me, listening to Nadja. For some reason they didn’t cross my radar, but on the strength of this re-release, I have seriously been missing out. Consouling Sounds have chosen to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the Alien8 release of this album by reissuing it with an extra disc containing an unreleased live studio version of the album and it is a very fine package indeed.

Touched was first issued in CD-R form in Japan 2003, pre-empting the first Jesu releases and the reactivated Earth‘s Hex by a year; then the tracks were re-recorded for the Alien8 edition back in 2007, which pushed the playing time to an hour for four tracks, which is just about perfect in my book.

Clearly, not knowing what to expect, a subtle drifting intro lulled me into making my way closer to the speakers until the growling guitar and bass unfurled towards me, distortion rippling in its wake. Like a storm trapped in a valley, the sound rolls around and returns again and again to a central motif that keeps gently spreading. In my mind, I see this taking place over a lush, rural French landscape, drums like thunder captured through shutters thrown open wide against a placid heat. It is epic, but distant and that same motif grumbles and roars as the lighter fizzes and wails of guitar electricity crackle in the upper atmosphere, adding enough texture to keep the thirteen minutes or so of opener “Mutagen” fascinating. As the guitar makes a break for clearer air, the storm gradually abates and we are left replete.

“Stays Demons” comes in at a paltry ten minutes(!); here, vocals are introduced, but are almost imperceptible and these, along with the slow minor chord progression, introduce a more romantic, melancholic air. Words drift in and out of focus like the transmissions from some ancient pirate radio ship, abandoned on the seas but still emitting lonely, distant tales of heartache and loss. There are clearer vocals on the eighteen-minute “Incubation/Metamorphosis”, but they only appear briefly one third of the way through as the song drifts in the ebb and flow of some nameless ocean. Static surrounds and envelopes everything, leading us into a sense of calm; but it is misleading. It is difficult to tell where we are and how much of what we are hearing has been played before. It is like some mysterious black hole and we are helpless in its clutches.

The sleepy lions’ roar of “Flowers Of Flesh” sees the album out with its turgid ramble and angry bear vocals, shattered glass and ornaments scattered mutedly across the bow. The whole thing turns into a musical furore as keyboards are introduced and drag twisted textures and unforgiven feelings deep into the mix. It is feral and wild, yet slow and clashing and as the final outro lulls us again into pastoral tranquillity, we could be forgiven for thinking that this was all some crazy fever dream. Just press play to discover all over again the beauty and ferocity that lies within.

The demo disc does a similar thing, but in a slightly shorter format. It is a little wilder, a little blurrier, guitars are given a freer reign and they dance and shriek in an unguarded manner, as if there is a little more frantic energy, but not the experience of subtler production. The vocals are even more gossamer-like, but really this is like a first draft or a sketch for a greater work. Fascinating in its own right and definitely worth inclusion.

This is a fantastic reissue and a great place to start the unenviable task of working through Nadja’s huge back catalogue. Here I go…

-Mr Olivetti-

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