Nihiling (stylized: nihiling) is an Experimental / Post-Rock band from Hamburg, Germany which has been around for a good ten years. The quartet of Gorka Morales (Guitar/Vocals), Alex Steinmetzer (Bass/Vocals), Jan Hendrik Schnoor (Drums) and Marco (Guitar) is yet a young group wanting to break free from all limitations, those given by the label of genres and those created by their own recognizeable sound from the two previous records.
With this self-titled album, nihiling they move further away from the more aggressive and direct post-rock sound of their debut M(e)iosis and the more experimental follow-up record Egophagus (both via Abandon Records). The distorted guitars have gradually been replaced by looped melodies which could be explained by the departure of their previous guitarists Andreas Höfler and Felix Eggert. To compensate for the overall loss of one guitar, the band experiments more heavily with electronic drum patterns and synth sounds.
For nihiling being a completely crowdfunded album, the production sounds very clean and elaborate without ever being too sterile. This is most impressively demonstrated on the instrumental opener ‘Very Large Telescope’. All instruments are less overwrought, less distorted, everything appears to be in balance. The follow-up track ‘Plot’ is the most familiar sounding song on the album with its dreamy melody, Gorka’s calm vocals and an eerie, somewhat melodramatic intermission in the middle – overall a perfect introduction to anyone who hasn’t yet listened to any of the music of Nihiling.
‘Do Not Make Me Axe You Again’ has the ‘oh so typical’ post-rock crescendo but adds to it an almost cheery guitar riff that reminds me more of the upbeat themes of bands like And So I Watch You From Afar. And just as you get into this happy mood that’s when the song ‘Hips’ starts to play – and out of the sudden you are listening to a looped intro that reminds you more of the great Radiohead, then Alex’ gloomy vocals begin to play and an electronic bassline drops. I would overall very carefully sum this song up as an excursion into the land of Trip-Hop à la Portishead.
The song ‘Tragic’ does appears to be the most post-rock sounding song without actually trying to do so. The slow, slightly underwhelming beginning transforms into an upbeat, danceable finale. And here’s my biggest gripe about this record: While every track individually hits just the right emotions, the whole album seems more like a grab bag of great ideas rather than a fully evolved unit. This can be felt again as the melancholic and dreamy ‘The Universe Is Something That Happens’ starts. This brilliant track – which finally introduces a rougher, more aggressive sound for a few moments – does impress me quite a bit, but also shows that if the biggest similarity between the songs on an album is the diversity between them, the whole concept of it may seem a bit lost.
Nihiling do redeem themselves with the closure track ‘The Lesson Of Being Who We Are’. The guitar pedals are on full throttle; the layered guitars mixed with the simple piano melody paint a beautiful soundscape and Alex treats us with her angelic voice one last time. Yes, this album is all over the place and somehow that is still a beautiful thing.
On their official page, the band proudly calls this hybrid of an indie rock attitude, post-rock sound layers and modern art pop influence simply “Postrock-Fake”. But this album is a lot more than just a statement against the generalization of music. It’s a combination of the band’s best ideas on the path of finding their own sound – and therefore the listener must appreciate this album more as being the journey rather than the destination.
Nihiling have since expanded their lineup, completed another successful fundraiser and are now recording their fourth album which is scheduled to be released at some point in 2017.