Review Summary: Wondrous and dreamy trip hop soundscapes created around always-flawless female vocals.
It’s been about five months since a fair portion of Sputnik learned/heard about the White Birds
EP, offered for free as Sarah Fimm’s Christmas gift to her fans in 2008. One would figure that after such a gesture on Fimm’s part, coupled with a generally positive response, people would be eager to look into her back catalogue. For whatever reason, no one has – except for me of course.
There are two things fans of White Birds
should know before diving headfirst into Nexus
. First, it’s not as diverse as said EP. While many of the tracks have their own identity, and almost every song has at least one catchy and/or memorable vocal melody, there isn’t a folksy acoustic song like “Counting Waves”, nor something as grim as “Let it Run”. Whether it’s a negative or positive is up to you – Nexus
feels more unified as an album because of this, but since “Let it Run” was one of the better songs on that respective release, one can’t help but wish she’d tried something like it four years earlier.
The other disclaimer: this album is anything but immediate. Upon first listen, I found the album extremely homogenous and drawn out (it kind of still is, but more on that later). Such a statement, however, could be applied to a multitude of great metal albums, and with each listen, the strengths of each track will reveal themselves. And believe me, several of those strengths encompass almost the entire album.
First and foremost, Nexus
is a trip hop album. An odd number of the tracks feature “real” bass and drums – which gives them a bit of a soft rock feel – but the bulk of the album centers around synths and electronic beats. The songs with real drums can feel a bit upbeat, but perhaps the best words to describe the others (and Nexus
as a whole) would be “dreamy” and “euphoric”. In other words, this is the embodiment of air that Thrice failed to achieve, and Cynic only achieved to a certain degree. It’s atmospheric, spacey and a host of other synonyms, but this is mainly achieved via Fimm’s greatest asset: her voice.
No matter how good the trip hop behind her gets, it’s Fimm’s voice that keeps the songs at such a high quality. Her lush, sensuous fits the music perfectly, and even though her range isn’t that spectacular, there are absolutely no weak vocal moments to be found. And as mentioned before, most of the songs have at least one memorable and/or catchy vocal melody.
The only real problem with Nexus
is the one alluded to before: its length. Two minutes short of an hour just feels like overkill, and upon first listen it might feel painfully long. Even after that, one or two tracks could have been left off the album. Luckily, that’s the only real trouble with an excellent trip hop album from a severely underrated musician. Ending with a wonderful 7-minute (semi) finale and the best of three short instrumental pieces, Nexus
is beautiful, consistent and (at least somewhat) unique. Best of all, it might not even be her best album.
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