By: Chad Murray
Nonbeliever | website | facebook | bandcamp |
Released on March 7, 2016 via Nonrefundable Records
A bubbling of pads, a crisp delicate crackle. A deeply saturated, hypnotic guitar line. ‘Advancing Giants’ opens the album. Initially, I’m reminded of Grails but, once the bass enters the track it almost sounds like a psychedelic take on a Fugazi track or something by The Beta Band. Either way, take those three elements and your onto something that cannot fail. The militant drums do a good job of adding some impetus to the tracks but the worn out vocals are probably the most engrossing element to me. The track boasts some excellent breakdowns spanning through desert jams, light jazzy prog and even subtle hints a classical Spanish style guitar but, when the track finally reaches a fever pitch it’s the drums shine brightest with the sticksman pounding the shit out of the toms like he’s Keith Moon on acid trying to liberate the goldfish from his kit. Off to a good start.
The title track kicks off with a beautiful sweltering bass and expertly suppressed drums whilst pads warp and convulse gently in the distance. Again, I’d say there’s a bit of a Beta Band vibe but, I also feel like this song has a bit of a Sparklehorse vibe in its production style and softly spoken vocals. With a delicate croon and a hint of introspective wisdom Nonbeliever channels his inner Nick Cave with the hook “maybe I loved you, maybe it’s strange…” followed by an exhausted guitar seemingly attempting its final wall of sound before the broken chorus tries again. Every instrumentation endearingly shattered, every part of the arrangement embodying the song’s weary spirit.
‘Circles (Start Again)’ begins as a campfire folk jangle but, quickly evolves into an arid blues track befitting of a Tarantino film. How it gets from Wyatt Earp to Beatrix Kiddo is quite an evolution. Opening with light padding and carefully plucked guitar, the vocal melody is built on layers resembling something from Josh Homme’s desert sessions or lighter QOTSA tracks such as Like A Drug where the soft croon is lightly harmonised to ethereal effect. The percussion is again excellent and I have to wonder whether or not this solo artist uses session musicians or something similar or if he truly is an excellent musical polymath.
A brief silence segues two tracks together seamlessly, ‘You Have Not Been Listening’ as a title almost hints at the effortless flow between these two tracks. The guitar builds from folk almost to mariachi with some delightfully dancey undertones from the rhythm section. The disembodied vocals ethereally darting around the track, the guitar riffing every which way across the scales as hypnotic as ever until each element explodes into a crescendo at the end.
‘Oh No’ opens with a guitar line reminiscent of The Bends-era Radiohead sinister yet bright, abrasive yet euphoric but, it soon falls into darkness. A song for driving down the highway late at night, it is not too morose or too dull. Its melody lies beneath a silkscreen of shadows and haunting tones but, at its core its almost up-lifting.
The strings immediately stand out in ‘The Ghosts, The Grue and The Gore’; buried beneath the guitars they shimmer delicately. The groovy track blends cooky horror show sections with latin influences and mellow vocals to create a desert friendly radio jingle. The instrumental section of the song helps the relaxed cruising atmosphere as well as allowing the track ample time to breathe.
‘Trying Too Hard’ is the shortest song on the album built on a delicate foundation of plucked guitars and ominous pads. Whispered vocals adeptly tiptoeing on the mix, the inherent fragility mirrored in all aspects of the arrangement.
The album takes somewhat of a psyche turn in ‘Summer, Evidently’ winding strange chords through eerie strings with tribal vocals flying overhead. The soft percussion flanged beneath the surface, the subdued performance, the delays on the keys, it all adds to the mellow atmosphere, expertly built up in the track. It almost feels like Nick Drake meets Jefferson Airplane at times with some chilled electronica mixed in.
‘Hero’ carries the album into melodic electronic territory straddling the likes of Radiohead, Modwheelmood and The Postal Service to create a compelling pop variation on the album’s style. The vocal melodies on these track are delightfully spellbinding, I’d dare to say they’re less dreary than some of the other songs as well and I’ve been told that’s a quality humans like.
A costal strumming on the guitar, relaxed percussion straight from the advert for a tropical island getaway. The guitar hook almost a hopeful take on a Fugazi riff. The lethargy permeates throughout the album but, ‘Dead Leaves (Or Directorial Debut)’ takes it almost to a restive apathy with an almost Hawaiian holiday vibe, the tired croon becomes almost one of disinterest and relaxation.
The guitar in ‘Aurora Jest’ for whatever reason reminds me of Buddy Holly with little licks by Clapton and Santana. The vocals endearingly exhausted crooning hypnotically over the mesmerising psychedelic folk track. The percussion and the vocal melodies add considerably to the blissed out timbre of the track; I’d certainly dub this a stand-out for the album.
The final song on the album is ‘Crying Wolf’; delicately plucked strings build a calm on the surface but, things get weird. A high pitched sound evocative of a theremin cuts in with the drums and some more Radiohead-esque vocals enter the fray as the track warps through ominous and alluring phases of euphoria and melancholy. It’s always interesting to consider the way and album begins and ends, it always gives an insight into how an album is to be remembered; this ending is an arresting moment for the album, a sorrowful conclusion that fades ethereally out of the listener’s ears and raises questions as to what happens next.