Review Summary: Elegant, powerful, brooding and poetic. Another excellent mix of neo-classical instrumentation, electronics, poetic lyrics and a subtle modern rock foundation.
In the Nursery have been in existence for about thirty years and have over two dozen albums in their discography. They began their career as a lo-fi industrial act, but they quickly moved in a much more unique direction. This direction was basically an electronics-based neo-classical sound that initially specialized in short, simple pieces that made up for rough edges with quite a bit of ambition. The band’s fourth LP, L’esprit
, was the first to truly perfect their core formula which meant that ensuing releases could focus on expanding the scope of their music – a process that they started immediately. Subsequent releases – notably Sense
– saw the band’s neo-classical direction shift from simple little pieces to more complex cinematic compositions that added a great deal of percussion and an ability to create dense moody atmospheres. This sound was augmented by occasional poetic interjections that were read by one of two vocalists, one male and one female. While this might initially sound like an odd collection of influences, it actually worked really well and it didn’t stop there. Eventually the band returned a bit of the traditional electronic elements to the mix and even supplemented a few songs with subtle rock conventions.
This entire progression seemed to culminate with the aptly titled Era
in 2007. This was an album that made use of just about every element the band had ever previously tried in order to deliver what is arguably their best and most comprehensive album to date. If Era
was the culmination of thirty years of history then Blind Sound
is the darker, moodier companion piece – an album that further refines all of those past ideas and feeds them through songs that are built on a modern rock foundation, but delivered through a neo-classical filter. This increased emphasis on modern musical structure is evident in the stronger, more cyclical melodies that almost act as each song’s hook, as well as a more melodic vocal style than the previous predominately spoken-word efforts. Opening track, “Artisans of Civilization”, begins with the brass, string and woodwind instruments that one would expect but when the percussion comes in things quickly change. The rhythmic beat is still delivered in the rolling, militaristic style that the band has used extensively in the past, but it sounds like it is played on a full drum kit instead of a single snare. Also, the beat itself is just a little more ‘loose’ than the rigid tempos of old. The lyrics, as well, while still retaining their poetic feel, are delivered in more of a deep ‘goth’ style than the classy spoken-word of the past. The main thing is that it all still works and has allowed the band to subtly alter the overall tone of their music.
In the Nursery have always been able to deliver dark, menacing neo-classical songs when they want but with their slight directional change they now dominate the album. On Blind Sound
every song seems to be comprised of ominous tones and melodies accompanied by a steady rhythmic percussion – an element that has really gained a lot of power on this release. This base is often augmented by subtle ‘found sounds’, layered electronic synths, and even the occasional bit of dissonance in order to enhance the sense of unease that permeates throughout each track. Even the songs with the female vocalist – songs that were always the most soothing in the past – aren’t exempt from the dark tones, rhythmic percussion and brooding build-ups. The first instance of their female vocalist is on the song “Crepuscule” which begins with a solemn choir-like keyboard melody that is eventually joined by edgy percussion and layers of tense symphonic elements that just barely allow the delicate vocals room to breathe. There are still the occasional peaceful moments on this album such as the morose “Coloured Silence”, but they are few and far between.
It seems that at this point In the Nursery have got this electro, neo-classical (whatever") style down to a science because they effortlessly move from style-to-style and influence-to-influence with a seamless fluidity that keeps thing fresh and smooth. After thirty years of releases, Blind Sound
’s overall blend of elegance, power and melancholy shouldn’t come as much of a surprise but their emphasis on power and melancholy will. In the Nursery have definitely released the darkest album of their career, but it is also one of their best. Blind Sound
works because it takes the band’s music in yet another slightly different direction – a direction that that pushes the tight, rolling percussion to the forefront of most songs while delivering moody neo-classical melodies through a subtle modern rock foundation.