Split by Nadja and DisrottedRelease date: January 10, 2021
Label: Roman Numeral
Doom (the genre, that is, not the impending sense of calamity or misfortune) is a funny old thing. It’s one of those genres with so many variables, so many disparate moods and approaches under a single umbrella term that all of those sub-genres critics love-hate become essential for determining taste. No more could you say that Neurosis and Sunn O))) are one and the same than you could allege Nadja and Disrotted are alike, and yet here the two of them are, sharing a release like a downtuned, distorted and utterly miserable remake of The Odd Couple.
Of course, Nadja themselves have never been an easy prospect to pin down, Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff’s prolific output spanning blackened slabs of noise and gossamer ambience, plus so many sticky-outy moments of weirdness in between that they’re practically a genre unto themselves. ‘From The Lips Of A Ghost In The Shadow Of A Unicorn’s Dream’ definitely leans heavily towards the darker side of that spectrum, burying twenty minutes under a thick blanket of white noise, industrial drone and tones that pull and stretch like decade-old catgut. It’s like being dropped into the middle of the Siberian tundra, hostile and coldly frightening yet strangely beautiful. There’s a serenity in its alien nature, neither inviting nor pushing the listener away but rather just existing as a place unto itself. Tones rise and fall, and the spectre of a melody lingers, the twinning of sullen bass and cut-glass synth bringing it to the fore in a creepily mismatched duet, and for a small while it truly transports you to somewhere unearthly.
For Disrotted’s contribution, the aptly named ‘Pastures For The Benighted’, the doom is most certainly of the more traditional kind. Guitars ring out with the same clarity as if they were caked in mud, dust and charred remains, long and agonised chords occasionally punctuated with searing tremolo, and all polished off with feedback that squeals like stuck pigs. While Nadja’s contribution felt impartial, this is resolutely hostile, and when the guitars start to become even more mangled, the vocals more like demonic chatter, it’s straight-up hellish. This is not a subtle piece, every drum strike and riff hitting with catastrophic force, but it’s a testament to just how grim music can be when someone puts their mind to it.
Sometimes, split releases make for odd bedfellows and on the surface this one falls into that category, but there are commonalities that make it work. Both Nadja and Disrotted are capable of transforming an atmosphere through sound and though they may use differing strokes and palettes, the two are equally adept when it comes to clarity of the outcome. Equally, they are masters of tone and shade, balancing chaos and the cold void like the primal progenitors of old. Nadja and Disrotted might be walking similar paths but the scenery they conjure couldn’t be more dissimilar.