Review Summary: Behind the mask another mask.
There's a distant voice that sings in a common tongue from some hidden room in the heart of Tel Aviv. It comes from the soul and goes into the world, waiting for its heavy heart to land safely on receptive ears. I might be one of the chosen ones, or I may have forced my way through with the help of my incurable thirst for novelties, but the second album of Israel based Tali Green's project, Nicarus, landed on my speakers uninvited and unannounced, one cold morning of January this year, and a few months later I'm still grateful for it.
I had little idea what to expect, so I readied myself with my better skeptic suit and waited for a soft arpeggio on a dusty acoustic, the harbinger of every Phoebe Bridgers wannabe, to shove grief and discomfort down my throat, as it's common these days, but instead, the sad girl was not sad, but hella
angry, and she wielded no acoustic, son, she had brought a whole post-gaze sludge arsenal with her. Joke was on me. If I had listened to her self-produced debut EP from 2 years ago, Holy Sun Father Spirit
, where Green blasts pure, unaltered post metal and sludge ala Subrosa, always with the help of Texas based drummer and friend Rom Gov, from Seek Irony, I would have been well prepared for what Coal People, Coal Puppets
had in store. But the fact is that I didn't, and hence I was both blessed and punched with surprise and bewilderment, unprepared, and honestly, a little bit alarmed.
The album release post on social media, particularly on Nicarus' Facebook, was received with some dude bombing political memes and straight up stupidity in the comment section. Nicarus' homeland is not particularly known for treating female artists with respect, often being pushed to the back-chorus role of some horribly average band or being denied access to studios and recording options that their male counterparts have. In that sense, Tali Green's options for her music have always been conditioned by what she can do by herself. She built her own studio, where she produces young artists from her city, films her own music videos and basically embraces the DIY culture both as a last resort and as an essential part of her music.
Knowing this, Nicarus' first full-length might not shine by its production values, but by the material it packs. It's rare enough to stumble upon a one-woman army project like this one, let alone coming from Israel, but the spiraling shoegaze of the opening track "We Can See Their Lies" quickly shows that Nicarus has something special going on, although it's just the tip of the iceberg. She excels at going full Melvins on "Are you Afraid to Die Alone", or even at channeling some Type O'Negative, or True Widow, in the middle section of "The Architect of Grime". Rom Gov again behind the kit certainly elevates an album that could have been much less if it was treated to the lifeless thump of programmed drums, and there's no doubt that Green's vocals are the centerpiece of this record. To put it simple, she has THE voice, and she knows how to use it. Check "With Storms We Thrive" for a brief taste of her magic or immerse right into the title track for some serious spellbinding sludge driven by her whimsical vocal harmonies.
It is true that the overall production brings Nicarus' debut a notch, although, and to be fair, they are details that will just improve in further iterations. Yes, the production is all over the place albeit being fairly decent considering Green cooks her own meal on the 6 tracks included in Coal People, Coal Puppets
. Every track sounds extremely disjointed from the rest, maybe due to the artist experimenting with different configurations in search of the perfect sound, but some of them, like the title track, reaches critical levels of saturation at times. The second aspect to consider is Green's obsession with sample recordings. Their use has been minimized in comparison with her past works but their presence here is doubtful at times, stretching the track far more than needed, to taxing lengths.
All things considered, I do believe Nicarus is a project bound to do great things in the future, maybe even becoming the spearhead of a whole generation of young female artists struggling to break through the veil the male-dominated culture of her country tries to enforce on them. Coal People, Coal Puppets
is certainly a good start. It channels the anger and frustration of not only Tali Green but of a whole new line-up of artists in need of respect and recognition. At the time of writing this, a remaster of this album has been confirmed, so expect a better version of Coal People, Coal Puppets
, along with witch-themed filmography to celebrate its re-release.