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Nadja - Dagdrøm

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Artist: Nadja

Album: Dagdrøm

Label: Broken Spine

Review date: Nov. 9, 2012

Nadja — the husband and wife doom duo of Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff — takes a bit of a left turn on Dagdrøm, quite possibly the first “rock” album in the band’s lengthy discography. After several guitar/bass ambient recordings, we’ve got an unexpected third wheel: Jesus Lizard drummer Mac McNeilly. While the core of Dagdrøm is still layered drones, McNeilly’s tribal drumming gives the final package a modern, bleakly metal feel in the Neurosis vein — the drums that open “Space Time & Absence,” the album’s most accessible cut, seem almost an homage to that band’s Enemy of the Sun.

The album consists of four lengthy metal dirges that drive home one of this album’s problems: Repetition is its guiding principle. If you’re in the mood, the repeating riffs may fit right in; if you’re not, you’ll grow weary midway through each song. Unfortunately, the more attention I paid, the less patience I had. Drones don’t carry the same expectations; slow evolution is par for the course. With the structure that the riffs and drums bring to these songs, there’s an expectation that things will move along, and too often here the songs tread water. The vocals, when they appear, are no more than insubstantial murmurs.

For the first few minutes of “One Sense Alone,” the glacial riffs and simple, pounding drums feel great, like a Godflesh song slowed down to quarter-speed, or the dense opening pummel of an Isis tune repeated and mutated. Halfway through, the song is for all intents and purposes over, and yet there’s more than five minutes left. That said, if you’re in the mood, it’s subtly mesmerizing.

The title track is the weakest one here, full of by-the-books slow metal riffs that, while meaty, are predictable and repetitive. The aforementioned “Space Time & Absence” has a relatively fast-paced riff and a more conventional structure, though a bit less than halfway through its 14 minutes the song fades away, leaving just drums and vocals. The drums do a fine job of staying heavy and sparse, but the singing feels half-hearted. Not the way you want to spend the last six minutes.

There’s evidence here that the addition of McNeilly’s drums could make for a pretty great album — his approach provides the muscle needed to support the heaviest dirge riffs Baker and Buckareff can cook up. But on Dagdrøm, the riffs don’t rise to the occasion.

By Mason Jones

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