Review Summary: In four words: doom-country post-rock.
Melancholy yet darkly menacing, Nikko’s sound is the musical equivalent of listening to your best friend drunkenly rave about breaking up with his pregnant girlfriend. This brooding tone builds through the album, swaying from tender moments to crushing crescendos. Using country tones and riffs for guitar combined with the wailing of a violin, the band’s sound draws upon the sadness of country music. The band uses elements from post-rock for the songs’ “rise and fall” structures and the largely instrumental nature of the album.
Ryan Potter’s deep vocals only add to the doom and gloom as he mutters and croons through his lines. Although they are used a little sparsely, they shine through as some of the highlights of the album in both lyrics and delivery. That’s not to say the instruments are lacking. The drums are tight and varied, shining in Young Liberal as it manically drives the song. The guitars play off against one another, bending riffs and alternating picking between the two players. In the album’s background, the ominous bass lines provide a solid foundation while the violin shrieks and wails. As a unit, the band’s playing is extremely tight and coordinated, which is mirrored in their live shows. The drumming in particular interacts with and supports the rest of the band extremely well.
The band’s songwriting ability is on show in the album. The structures are mainly inspired by post-rock, as they build to crescendos and collapse from these heights to lone instruments. These changes don’t fall into the typical post-rock patterns and continue to surprise the listener. The opener, Wedding Song, is a good example of this. It seemingly ends far too soon at the 2:30 mark but re-emerges to resolve the song in emphatic fashion. The album flows remarkably well together, a cohesive whole without a wasted second.
Songs subside to serene instances of piano playing off against a quietly picked guitar, before roaring back into tempestuous walls of guitar riffs and drum hits, underpinned by a moving bass line. The slow languorous instrumental burn of The Trial is a great example of Nikko’s strengths. Indeed, the only real misstep in the album is at the end of Greg and the Fox, where the electronic whirring outstays its welcome.
Nikko’s first album has cemented their unique place in Australia’s post-rock scene as one of the best in the genre but also independent of it. Like Eleventh He Reaches London, the band has made something unique and unexpected out of mish-mash of genres.