Severance by NetherlandsRelease date: March 31, 2023
Label: Svart Records
Severance is the new album from Netherlands, the “avant sludge” project of Timo Ellis (Cibo Matto, Spacehog, Yoko Ono), now also featuring David Keith on drums. The album is a continuation of Ellis’ vision of creating music that is “light-hearted, brutal, ecstatic” and could be considered a refinement of his streamlined, bombastic style. All the elements that have made up previous releases are there – deliciously crunchy guitars, sky-high falsetto and
bubbling electronics, wrapped in a concise thirty-eight minute package.
First off, it sounds fantastic. Produced by Kurt Ballou of the inimitable God City Studios, the production is a gleaming, chrome beast that leaps from your speakers. The guitars hum with tightly honed distortion yet are impeccably clean at the same time, the vocals are both ethereal and visceral and the drums are thunderous. Splashes of synths pop up to augment certain songs, but the meat of the songs is in those sumptuous guitars. The first single ‘Omisha’ sets the tone for the bulk of the album; huge, repetitive chords pinned over a grooving beat, verses with Ellis’ echo-laden shrieks, rapping and Eastern melodies on keys. In other words there’s a lot going on, and while on paper it sounds like all these disparate ingredients wouldn’t work, somehow they gel in a way that just makes sense.
Most of the ten track album follows a similar blueprint, but to my ears, the last two songs are the most interesting. ‘Silencio’ turns off the distortion pedal, and lets the vocals take centre stage with a 60’s folk-inspired melody and restrained keys, while ‘Celia’s Mansion’ starts with some plaintive reverb-laden guitar before kicking into a fantastic, waltzing riff that brings to mind the Melvins or Floor, and is an excellent mission statement from the band.
With this release, Netherlands continue on their space-sludge mission and are sure to pull many more listeners into their orbit.