Skin Turns To Glass

So I’d just had a pill because I’m allowed to due to the fact I’m on holiday. The thinking behind this is: if you only take substances chaotically while on holiday you become less of a chaotic substance abuser the rest of the time. And if you stick to this for long enough, after a while you’ve got more money to go on holiday. So I’m at All Tomorrow’s Parties (Portishead) and I’m having one of those jagged MDMA rushes which make you want to do a little yelp and jump six inches in the air while stroking your bristling jaw and whooping like a mentally diverse cowboy. Over by Burger King is King Julian Cope and all of his band in full roadie rock metal attire: peaked caps, leather waistcoats, knee length boots, the lot. All queuing up for Whopper Meals. Before I have chance to think what I’m doing I fall to one knee, raise the horns in the air and shout: “COPEY!” The Arch Drude starts striding over like the dead girl from the film The Ring. Before I have chance to run off he kneels down and hugs me and we have a really nice chat about the weather and how the gods smile on those who rock.

Later in the day my friend – let’s call him Ken – says to me: “You get on with Copey, yeah? Do you want to come to his chalet with me, take DMT and watch the boxing?” I say yes but luckily I get lost and miss the main event. Dimethyltryptamine is a bracing psychedelic found in some plants and naturally occurring at trace levels in the human noggin. This fearsome drug is presumed to be responsible not just for the visual element of dreaming but several experiments suggest that the human system is flooded with DMT during near death experiences and during death itself. This is the chemical that produces the light (heavenly magnolia or hellish crimson) at the end of the final tunnel. It’s the very stuff that makes you burst with bliss as your lungs fill with water.

I think about Copey and Ken sitting in the chalet watching the boxing on a black and white portable, eyes vibrating in sockets like footballs in a tumble dryer. Bracing themselves against the floor and walls as if for impact. I’m glad I missed it really. There’s not much to be had from dying when you think about it. So it being a bit ‘Meh’ because you’ve ‘seen’ it all before, is something I’d like to avoid.

Once a year or thereabouts a record comes out which (in my mind at least) captures the full majesty of, well, karking it. I’ve imagined blinking out of existence with my last sensation being the fleeting velvet embrace of Odd Nosdam’s Burner or Future Sound Of London’s Dead Cities or Burial’s Untrue more recently. This week I’ve almost felt I could die happy listening to Nadja’s Skin Turns To Glass. Not in the sense that my life is now complete but rather I would happily let go of the rope and dissolve into the distressing void, my passage soothed by its presence. Off my wazoo on DMT. (This, it should be said, is intended as high praise indeed. Being an average sort of chap, the only other thing that has made me feel so fearless in facing time’s cunting chariot, is the overwhelming bravery offered by being head over heels in love.)

Nadja are a metalgaze (I know, I know, it’s not our fault) duo from Toronto made up of guitarist / keyboard player / percussionist Aidan Baker and bassist Leah Buckareff who came into being to allow the former to explore the heavier side of his ambient guitar work. Although fans of doom drone titans SunnO))) will probably enjoy this literally awesome album it should be said that there isn’t much of a comparison to be made between the two. Nadja’s apocalyptic noisescapes are scored rather than improvised and are ecstatic and sun dappled rather than tar black and doom laden. Their technique owes an obvious debt to My Bloody Valentine, without actually sounding very much like them unlike, say, Jesu. There is also some audibly virtuoso guitar playing here courtesy of Baker: Nadja, like, totally shred dude.

The attention to detail is never anything less than immaculate. The sensuous drag of ‘Skin Turns To Glass’ features squalls of multi-tracked guitar lines producing birdsong as a veritable Glen Branca of a guitar orchestra provides the snail-slow rumble. Baker’s dry throated death rattle makes for a sublime counterpoint to Buckareff’s honeyed if melancholy tones. The haters will, naturally, dismiss this as Nigel (and Nigella) music but, y’know, fuck that bunch of prannocks. Here is yet more bona fide proof that metal is still the most forward looking of all popular music genres and perversely the closer (sonically at least) it gets to death the more vital it becomes.

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