Album Review: Niagara – Don’t Take It Personally

cd-wallet.inddItalian experimental duo Niagara have been turning heads and perking ears since their debut album Otto dropped onto the scene last year. Their follow-up, Don’t Take It Personally, released earlier this month on Monotreme Records, expands upon their craft of off-kilter brilliance as it traverses forty-five minutes of gritty electronica and captivating psychedelic pop. With its impossible-to-identify influences, ambient peregrinations and bizarre textures, it won’t likely be a crowd-pleaser, but the sheer power of creativity unleashed over the course of ten tracks is a testament to audacious minds unafraid to dive head-first into uncharted territory.

As a concept album, Don’t Take It Personally narrates the struggle of the soul against the looming permanence of technology; possibly this is why the best moments come in tracks like “Fat Kaoss” where psychedelic bundles of electronic textures, sounding like a buried swarm of ghoulish electro-bots tearing and ripping apart whatever it is exactly that surrounds them, give way to beautiful interludes of dreamy instrumentals and serene human voices. As a whole, “Currybox” is the best work; its drained vocals and underworld meditations elevate suddenly upon a symphonic billow of near-eastern strings. “Vanilla Cola,” which retains elements of traditional rock, is a close second as it builds a dizzying trip through a secret garden of beautiful, spinning sound.

Grim electronica guides the fuzzy radio chatter of “Speak&Spell,” while “Laes” plays as a conversation between a demented toymaster and his creepy computer elves. Humanity reclaims its senses with “Popeye” and “China Eclipse,” both tracks of which float through wondrous ambiences and deliver hopeful melodies. But the reign of machines is inevitable in “Else” where, amongst a thriving soundscape of living machinery, robotic vocals repeat the refrain, “Feel like electric machine” until being blown apart by virulent pumps of EDM grit. “Bloom,” the album finale, is dolorous and procession-like with funereal voices guiding mankind to its final resting place, building to a wistful piano anthem that dies off into garbled ambiances. The story leaves one yearning for something further. Be sure to keep an eye on these talented experimentalists in the future.

About author
Christopher Witte is a writer living in Los Angeles, CA, afflicted with an unhealthy obsession for independent genres of music.   Follow: @WittePopPress

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