tUnE-yArDs: Nikki Nack (4AD) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Nikki Nack


May 06, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

There’s never been an obvious way to define tUnE-yArDs. Merrill Garbus’ turbulent transmissions of pulsing rhythm and unconscious reels of garbled poetry are almost always unplaceable. For the Connecticut native, parameters or boundaries just don’t exist. The sounds she makes are feralshaped, scarred, and molded by the environment that surrounds her.

If it all seems a little too much like art, it’s because art is what it is. W h o k i l l, Garbus’ critically lauded 2011 sophomore album, was sonic expressionism at its most visual, emitting raw, violent R&B snapshots of a fearful America filled with injustice. What thrilled was not just the sounds she made, but also the unkempt energy she projected into every song.

It’s no surprise that album number three is as expressive as its predecessors. But where w h o k i l l felt like the noose-tightened pound and grind of urban concretes, Nikki Nack is utterly unconstrained. Built around Haitian basslines and free-form percussion, these 13 tracks are expansive and loose, like the sound of an artist unshackling.

And unshackle is what Garbus does best. “Water Fountain,” in particular, is a raw collage of drum, chime, and her exhilarated vocal shrill. While nothing else is quite so wild and abandoned, there are plenty more moments of adrenaline to be found in the burping bassline boom of “Real Thing” and pounding, epileptic dub clanger “Sink-O.”

The kaleidoscopic sonic collages of “Hey Life” and “Stop That Man” may prove too skittery and unfocused for concentrated ears, but theselike the majority of this recordare a frantic, fascinating glimpse into a creative mind that simply refuses to stand still. For tUnE-yArDs, definition remains elusive and extraordinary. (www.tuneyards.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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