Nadja, Ruins of Morning, Broken Spine Productions (2010)
Well, this is a surprise for me: I had given up on Nadja for sticking to their usual noisy ambient drone doom texture soundscapes but for once the duo give us something a little like introspective country or folk post-rock. The first half of “Ruins of Morning” reminds me of current Dylan Carlson / Earth: it’s an easy-going, slightly blues-flecked, Western-desert atmospheric doom metal soundscape with a minimal and repetitive melody or riff along with bare-bones percussion. There’s a slight intrusion of distorted noise guitar which gives the work a slightly roughened edge and warns you there’s something more sinister behind the warm and restful rhythm, the hushed voice and long chiming harmonica / organ tones. The repetition has an immersive and relaxing effect on the listener and the piece builds up slowly and almost imperceptively. Any variations within the track are in minute details: the odd change of key, a missed drum-beat perhaps, an off-key note, a squeaky guitar lick.
As Part 1 progresses, the mood gradually becomes ominous and dark as if presaging mysterious turmoil; the chiming tones twist and turn and shadows soon hover over them. The guitars begin a long wail and the noise begins to bleed into the dark spaces like never-ending acid showers.
In Part 2, the familiar Nadja drone noise narrative kicks in like a fresh spring shower, washing away the darkness and shadows that had crept up on the serene country / folk soundscape. The whispery vocals shape the droning feedback and give it rhythmic regularity so it soon begins a staccato stop-start routine. A clean lead guitar solo locks into a duet with the music which itself becomes less distorted, while still retaining a rough edge.
There’s actually not much of a climax and the track fades away slowly in the guise it had in its first twenty minutes.
“Ruins of Morning” is a mellow sound painting of open spaces, mostly clear skies and hints of a fresh beginning, a renewal of life. There may be a nostalgic longing for a past loved one in the quiet, wistful vocals but overall the opus seems quite hopeful. Perhaps a new direction for Nadja is being heralded here? There isn’t a great deal of imagination invested in the piece and it’s very long for what it does though it has to build up very slowly to achieve that immersive effect. The band still slips into the old Nadja groove so I’m not holding my breath for anything radically different.