The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Quietus Artists Of 2008

Astral Noise Mongers Nadja On The Protestant Work Ethic And Covering a-ha
John Doran , December 18th, 2008 03:29

You call me metalgaze! You call me dream sludge! You call me power ambient! That's not my name! That's not my name! That's not my . . . name! John Doran talks taxonomy with Aidan and Leah.

For all the world, Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff look like a young, studenty, bookish pair of friends in real life, rather than other worldly noise mongers. This is because that is essentially what they are. Leah reveals that they have both been able to give up their day jobs as book store clerks in Canada in order to concentrate on their music full time. They are sitting in the World’s End pub in Camden tucking into steaming plates of Thai green curry before venturing downstairs to play a relatively well attended gig in The Underworld.

Tonight’s support comes from spooky power electronic sorts Satori (my friend James describes their rattling and clanking ambient noise as "the sound a schizophrenic hears when it’s time to get the plumbers in") and Atavist (my friend James describes their worthy but slightly haphazard and dull "extreme" metal as “pub doom”).

Despite sound problems (that eventually cause the headliners to leave the stage about half an hour early) Nadja are still pristine and full of pseudo-ephedrine glow. (Or as my friend James starts describing it: "You know when you get deep field focus like on Citizen Kane and . . ." LOOK! JUST FUCK OFF JAMES! YOU’RE TOO GOOD AT THIS AND YOU’RE TAKING BREAD OUT OF MY MOUTH!) You can still hear the multi-layered dream sludge and effervescent metal gaze of their numerous, excellent releases from this year, such as the awesome Skin Turns To Glass (The End) and Bliss Torn From Emptiness (Profound Lore) re-recordings, as well as a wheel barrow full of original LPs, EPs, live albums and splits. Tonight, it is easier to hear the debt they owe to Justin Broadrick, a debt that Aidan wears on his sleeve. Literally. He looks like a student from 1993 with his unruly hair and long sleeved Godflesh top. They certainly don’t seem to have any of the angst ridden neurosis of Broadrick or unabated fury of the black metal bands they look up to. This is especially the case when they describe to me how they’ve recorded an album of covers that includes Aha’s ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’ and ‘Long Dark Twenties’ by Kids In The Hall.

But influences aside Nadja have a sound that is at once instantly recognizable and completely unique. Put simply it matters not one jot to me that there aren’t all encompassing forward-looking trends in music any more when such glorious sounds are to be found right out at the perimeters.

How has the tour been going?

Aidan: We had a really terrible gig last night in Coventry. There were only about 12 people there so we just took the piss and had a laugh. We’ve just done about a fortnight of gigs in Europe.

How do gigs over here differ to those in North America?

Aidan: I’d say it’s about the same but touring in Europe is a lot easier. Because we’ve got a limited audience we seem to get a better audience over here because more people come out. It’s probably the same in America but everything’s much further apart, so it’s that much difficult to tour.

I was about to say that this year has been a prolific year for you but to be honest, every year is a prolific year for you isn’t it? Do you ever worry about quality control as regards to the amount of stuff you put out?

Aidan: Yeah. We actually turn down a lot of stuff. People are constantly approaching us to put stuff out. I guess that’s because we have a reputation of being prolific, so people are constantly approaching us to something. We can’t keep up with the offers at the moment though. It’s kind of crazy. We’re trying to stick to six releases a year. One every two months.

Within whatever you want to call this genre – metal gaze, power ambient, drone etc – you use an extremely wide palette of sounds. You don’t, for example, use the (purposefully) tight sonic focus of SunnO))) or Earth – do you have your own language for talking about all these different noises amongst yourselves?

Aidan: I suppose so but it’s not a very precise language! When we’re dealing with actual sounds from an instinctual improvisational kind of thing rather than a specific plan then it’s ‘Ok, if that’s what comes out, then that’s what comes out.’ But actual structure of the song? Obviously it’s laid out a little bit more carefully but the sound is in the moment, so to speak.

I really like Skin Turns To Glass but I’m aware that it’s a re-recording of an earlier album. Why do you re-record stuff and when do you stop and say enough is enough, when tinkering with old material.

Aidan: Well, that is a dangerous situation to get into because we could go back and re-record the re-recording. It would be a re-re-recording. But that would be a bit excessive so we haven’t. Most of the stuff we have re-recorded was originally recorded on CDR and done on a four track so the production value was pretty low. When we did the first record for Alien8 [Truth Becomes Death 2005] we had access to multi-tracking and multi-channels and it just improved our production values so much. So since people were asking for these records to be reissued so much so they could hear them it seemed kind of . . . I’m not going to say embarrassing because I don’t know if I should be embarrassed by these old records but I am embarrassed by the sound quality. Redoing some of the albums have given them a new life, a better sound and better production. But for the most part they sound pretty much the same.

Do you get a lot of static from your more traditional metal fans and internet sorts?

Aidan: When we play in any kind of setting that is unusual for us we tend to split the audience three ways. There will be some people who like what we’re doing, there will be some who don’t like it but find it interesting and people who don’t like it and they fuck off to the bar to get drunk.

It’s interesting that you’re wearing a Godflesh T-shirt because I remember that they used to have pretty much the same effect on metal crowds back then.

Leah: This is only important if you think we’re metal.

Aidan: Yeah. People say we’re ambient but we aren’t really that either.

Looking forward to 2009, what 38 releases are you going to put out?

Aidan: It’s not quite that many. We are actually going to put out a DVD which will have six hours of music on it. And we have an album of cover versions including songs by My Bloody Valentine and Codeine. We’re also going to do ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’ by Aha. To throw people off.

Brilliant! I really like ‘Manhattan Skyline’ off the second album.

Aidan: We were going to record that! But we didn’t think anyone would know it.

Apologies to Leah whose voice got lost on the recorder in the cacophonous din of the World’s End