Nightlands: Forget the Mantra (Secretly Canadian) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Forget the Mantra

Secretly Canadian

Dec 03, 2010 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Nightlands’ debut full-length, Forget the Mantra, is a dizzying sound quilt, stitched together from pieces of found sounds, aging cassettes, Gregorian chants, multi-layered chouses, Afro-rhythm sections, handclaps, and (most certainly) a few things that go bump in the night. It’s difficult to believe that it is the work of one man—multi-instrumentalist Dave Hartley, who also holds down bass duties with The War on Drugs.

While Here we Go Magic takes a party approach to a similar free-form structure, and Grizzly Bear stuffs its harmonies into easily recognizable pop pleasures, Hartley’s sounds head in a different direction—one of cozy psychedelic hymns and soft-focus spirituality. However, chipper refrains are often tempered with unease. The sun-dappled folksy jam of “God What Have I?” includes the soul-searching chant, “Oh my god, oh my god, what have I done?” Likewise, “’Till I Die”’s Beach Boy-resurrecting harmonies are paired with a minor-key chorus pondering death. Sprinkling salt over the sweetest of moments works wonders for Hartley—when he escapes from the dark underbelly of self-reflection, his sweet harmonies—particularly on Autoharp driven “Glass Vacuum”—become mere pleasantries.

In addition to conducting a full orchestra of disparate elements, Hartley—in the spirit of fearless experimentation—closes the album with three tracks knit together with spoken words that include tapes from a German lesson (“WFMS, 1993”), and 1969 Korean radio IDs (“A Walk in Cheong, 1969”). Far from indulgent, words and music complement each other impeccably, storyboarding the final emotional threads in Nightlands’ notable debut outing. (

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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