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culture

Sound Advice: Queller, by Nadja

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The experimental duo of Leah Buckareff and Aiden Baker has been making strange musical dreamscapes since 2005. Baker began Nadja as a solo, studio project in 2003 (he continues to create records, as well as books of poetry, on his own). The addition of Buckareff (an accomplished book binder and curator of the Wunderkabinet exhibition) allowed the project to explore the potential of live performance as well, and the two have developed and refined a transformative, wall-of-sound technique. Intensely prolific, Nadja has produced a staggering 31 full-length releases (32, if you count the 2008 re-recording of its 2003 record Skin Turns to Glass) to its name, and with every iteration of their aesthetic, Buckareff and Baker have pushed and stretched themselves.

Queller, however, might be their masterpiece. With so many releases, and so much space to wander in, they’ve had time for light and playful flights of fancy, like their covers record When I See the Sun Always Shines on TV. Queller, though, is a doomgaze monument of operatic proportions. They’ve incorporated the clamorous noise and somnambulant shoegaze reminiscent of groups like My Bloody Valentine, the Velvet Underground, and even Dinosaur Jr., and married that throbbing, wandering aesthetic—with all its gauzy layers and ephemeral structures—with the powerful, architectural framework of the most lordly and magnificent doom metal. The results are astounding.

Baker and Buckareff have been creeping toward a rock aesthetic with several of their recent releases, such as the eco-critical Flipper and the deep, sonorous Dagdrøm, and have finally become comfortable enough with the rigid skeletal structure to build an album around it. All of their past sound experiments are brought to bear on Queller, and are evident in its exceptional textures and the exquisite layering of its sound. While they’ve previously created work that sounded like liquid and smoke, they’ve now stripped down to muscle and bone—and rather than being reductive, this move anchors their sound and gives Nadja a new vitality.

Queller is made up of four gigantic, muscular tracks that don’t unfold so much as they unfurl. Nadja’s use of noise elements—feedback, static, distortion—is exceptional as always, and is now joined and driven forward by titanic riffs and tectonic percussion. The melody lines, often expressed in Baker’s vocals and clear, clean guitar, are soaring and mournful, and slice through the fog and heaviness. For those who have been inclined to disregard Nadja because of its sheer omnipresence and prolificacy—now is the time to discover it again. Queller is something wonderful.

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