: The enigmatic New York-based act NIHITI does nothing to help itself out from a visual or promotional standpoint in the wake of witch house's explosion and demise.
They perform shows shrouded completely in darkness, with only visual projections offering any sort of recognizability to the members involved. Their website is a collection of links that go nowhere except to pictures of hazy, sigil-heavy scenes. The only nameable member is a mastermind who apparently goes by the name Dragan Otasevic. Most of this sounds very familiar.
Yet, the well-worn "mysterious guy" aura that NIHITI projects actually does them massive favors on For Ostland, a record that splits its time between woozy ambient soundscapes, low-end heavy thumpers, and noise excursions. The fact that its all being guided by unseen sets of hands imbues it with an added sense of spontaneity, so when jarring changes do occur, as they do in the transition between the lovely bleeps and guitar meanderings of "Eisenbahnstrasse, January 1st 1946" to the industrial clang of "My Fantasy Has Gone Too Far" about halfway through the album, the effect is far more disturbing and visceral. It's mainly an album of captured moments, some serene, others harrowing. For every meditative bass throb/breathy hum like "Ankhmazes," there's something like the closing loop of "Not These Demons Again," which doesn't seem to be going anywhere as much as it spirals into eternity, seemingly left on at a murder scene.
NIHITI establishes these moods so well, that unfortunately, when they actually decide to reveal themselves as breathing humans who actually sing, the change in tone isn't just jarring, it's almost unpleasantly distracting. Look no further than "Sun Shatterer. " Starting with a bed of slowly bubbling menace and growing guitar squalls, a lazy four-on-the-floor dance thud comes in, and all of a sudden its unflattering, crowd-sourced-idea-of-goth time. It's not like they aren't capable of producing quality songs with vocals. The cover of Marissa Nadler's "Ghosts And Lovers," which finds the song's chorus repeated ad infinitum, is a beautifully haunting piece, the repetition and intensifying instrumental working off of each other in great ways, producing a track that feels like getting caught in a bitter wind storm that just gets worse and worse.
There is enough material on For Ostland to make it worth diving into multiple times, to search for new noises, or to reconsider what instrument or human voice might be making a noise that particularly struck the ear upon first listen. Yet, a tentativeness still remains over the whole proceedings, a compulsive need to cover all of the bases, that prevent it from being a truly immersive, demanding experience.
: There's been no shortage of crossover in techno between industrial and post-punk aesthetics, with a resurgence of interest in the sound coming from entities like Tropic of Cancer and Vatican Shadow.
It's usually an interesting intersection, drowning techno formulae in splattered synth sounds and walls of drone. Nihiti are a New York band whose 2010 debut clawed at the bleeding edges of electronic music. Their second album, For Ostland, not only carries vague conceptual gravitas but sees the band throwing their rockist characteristics to the wind—a breeze made from the grainy wheeze of old analogue synthesizers, in fact.
If you were lazy, you might call For Ostland a post-rock record, but that's not entirely accurate: its pulsating thrum ("Ankhmazes") and foreboding atmospherics are much more in line with those techno-leaning acts outlined above. Not to mention the titles referencing Nazi Germany's occupation of Eastern Europe. Indeed, there's something about the few vocal tracks here—"Sun Shatterer"—that have a detached, distorted vocal sound somewhere between Joy Division's more militant moments and even more militant early industrial like KMFDM.
With the exception of the affecting "Ghosts and Lovers," with its barely-there glowing embers of a pulse, For Ostland isn't much of a song-oriented record. Rather, it's an exploration of the texture of treated guitar, a journey from peaceful ambient to blissful guitar licks ("Eisenbahnstraße, January 1st 1946") to harshly fragmented industrial ("My Fantasy Has Gone Too Far"). The album's blistering ending run is a marching sturm und drang where the searing guitar feels like a razor cutting through flesh—thin and exact yet burning all the same. These are key examples of what Nihiti bring to an admittedly well-exercised equation: with more than just drum machines and analog equipment at their fingertips, they create soundscapes that not only gurgle and hum but branch out into organic tangents leftover from their harder rock roots.
There are several moments where Nihiti sound like they're summoning the ghosts of other groups on For Ostland. Maybe that's partly due to the band's revolving-door policy, more about sonic experimentation than solidifying a recognizable identity or image. Their guest of honour on this particular record is Berlin's Viktor Timofeev, an artist whose explorations of modern urban sprawl and decay seem to haunt For Ostland, which sounds like it could easily soundtrack the dark and abandoned streets of the post-wartime ruin it seeks to evoke. Alternately uneasy, bloodthirsty and painfully beautiful, For Ostland is a conflicted record that adds an unexpected new voice to the modern technoid post-punk dialogue.
: Anonymity in the Internet age could be seen as cynical bait for music bloggers, but for NIHITI, it's a necessary and inseparable part of their project's marrow.
Their live show, too, has minted their mystery, with the band playing in darkness, awash in projections that beg a sigilistic interpretation of the bleak themes the music explores. Even the name of the group's mastermind, Dragan Otasevic, is a fully composed nom de guerre that deepens the shadows of NIHITI's world.
Their new record, For Ostland, does little to remove the band's self-imposed veil. After the sonic departure of last year's acoustic Faced With Splendor, their latest returns to the genre-melting palette NIHITI is known for. Filled with dirges of guitar reminiscent of Sunn O))), Godspeed-esque post-rock crescendos, and dense layers of droning synths, Ostland's charred landscape is ever-changing yet consistently desolate.
During the final track, "Hymn Divisions," NIHITI use layers of synths like a church organist possessed by demonic forces. As metronomic percussion pushes the piece forward, the sounds pile atop each other, gaining weight and leading the listener to the end of the narrative-- questions about what's real or affected fade with the crackling feedback.
Aquarius Records Record of the Week
: We’ve long been fans of this mysterious NY outfit, whose past records found these guys brewing up a dizzying concoction of warped electro wave, haunting witch house-y minimalist creep, fuzzed out shoegazey ambience, and home brewed big beat crunch, all blurred and smeared into something way more abstract and psychedelic that its constituent parts.
But here on their third and most recent, the band dial things way back, and craft a dark, gorgeous slab of introspective, electronic soundscapery, opening the proceedings with thick swaths of gristled, pixelated Tim Hecker like sonic haze. All washed out and dreamy and woozily lysergic, perfectly leading into a stunning Marissa Nadler cover, the already dark original transformed into an even darker lament, all swirling churns of mumblecore drift, heaving swells of black blurred fuzz, over skeletal rhythms, and moaned barely there vox, smeared and subtly processed, a plaintive whispery croon becomes a lush landscape of layered drones drifting dreamily and druggily, a ghostly and spectral electro-ambient threnody, that builds to a near squall of roiling riffs and tangled black melodies, the result still somehow warm and soft and utterly trancelike.
Elsewhere, the group unfurl smoldering cinematic soundscapes, strange slivers of shadowy sound, moaning fragmented melodies, all over a haunting heartbeat like pulse, a sort of slo-mo electronica, laced with strange hummed/sung vocals that remind us a bit of country weirdos the Reveries, who sing with cell phone speakers in their mouths, the same effect here, a wordless warble that ebbs and flows, slipping from near insectoid buzz to deep softly dramatic, barely there croon, and back again, all over slow swooping backwards guitars, and disembodied fragments of guitar melody.
Some tracks, like “Eisenbahnstrasse, January 1st 1946” shed some of the darkness, and blossom into dreamily prismatic swirls, all tinkling chimes, clean guitar jangle, soft psychedelic shimmer, all interwoven with random samples and brief blurts of FX heavy skree, but the sound always seems to drift back into the darkness.
As the record progresses, heavy machine like industrial beat, lumber through fields of clang and clatter and thump, all constructed into a dense driving blast of junkyard groove, the whole thing swaddled in a distant buzz, and slowly building swells of layered static drones, a sort of ultra minimal hypno-hop, like something you migh have heard on an old DHR record, or on one of those Electric Ladyland comps alongside Techno Animal, Spectre and the like. Eventually, the sound slows to a crawl, still beat heavy, but this time a tar pit drag, a lurching, looped lumber, all downtuned thrum, and disembodied voices, and some buried shuffling skitter.
"Sun Shatterer" is a heady sprawl of minimal gloom pop, minor key guitars, chiming through a cloud of woozy sonic warble, weird clipped whispers, tense strings, keening high end tones, what sounds like Hermann Nitsch like brass, which resolve into soft whorls of crumbling distortion and lush waves of fuzzed out feedback, before unexpectedly exploding into something much more in keeping with their old sound, big beats, a sort of post industrial electro wave downer dirge, with clean, dramatic new wave vocals, big melodies, buzzing synths, but all still wreathed in the weird droned out sounds that started the track off, like a noiser, more abstact Interpol maybe…
After a couple brief tracks of creepy, psychedelic ambience, the 30 second “Campfire Ashes” way too short, sounding like it could have blossomed into some dark Demdike Stare style epic, which thankfully is in a way what happens, as that track leads directly into the closer, a nearly nine minute sprawl called “Hymn Division”. that lays down a simple pulsing beat, over which Nihiti lay thick swaths of black buzz, dense swirls of ribcage rattling low end reverberations, and finally deep, dramatic minor key melodies, that infuse the song with serious pathos, it’s not hard to imagine this as the sound track to the denouement of some twisted, modern, avant indie film, a dizzying expanse of moving, emotional, electronic minimalism, but here drifting towrd maximalism, the tones expanding and exploding in slow motion, the melodies, bright, and eventually blinding, the tones strecthed way out, tense and intense, the coda a sort of Hecker / Nadja dreamdronedrift, but more soft focus here, heady and heavenly.
The Needle Drop
: It’s been a while since something of this style really hit me, and I’m not sure if the project that created this song, nihiti, will do something like this again anytime soon.
The reason being other tracks on this group’s SoundCloud are much more acoustic by comparison.
So not only is this track overbearing, noisy, and emotionally crushing, but it’s a Marissa Nadler cover, too. With a simple electronic beat, rattling tambourine, and some funeral march-inspired chords, this track sounds like something that would find it’s way onto a Giles Corey or Have A Nice Life Album. Heavy, disturbing stuff.
: On the same label comes the rather wonderful package that is “For Ostland” an album pressed on clear vinyl (streaked with black), containing a poster of the sleeve (artwork by Viktor Timofeev) and an inner sleeve as well, all good stuff which is thankfully matched by the music inside as NIHITI mix drone, experimental, ambience and distortion to perfection.
After the atmospheric opener, the band take a sideways step as the cover “Ghosts and Lovers” (Marissa Nadler), turning the song into a beautiful gossamer haze of sound that is intense and aching with longing. On “ankhmazes” the sounds of old spirits walk the room, telling their tales without words, whilst over on side-Y, as opposed to side-X, “Sun Shatterer” is a slice of electro-pop fed through an industrial mincer, almost dance-able and sounding very fine indeed at high volume. To end, “Hymn Divisions” blends pulse with ambience, creating a mesmerising piece that floats away across a cloudy sky, brief glimpses of the moon allowing you to get your bearings.
Also available from NIHITI is “Other Peoples Memories”, an earlier LP that shows the band still searching for their final destination, the tracks having a more song-based edge, with “No Angel Came” possessing a rock heaviness that has become buried in distortion on their next LP. Elsewhere “The Ringing In” is a pop song filled with melody, whilst “Party Of” is a gently cloud of (mainly)acoustic psych, the two tracks sitting uneasily next to each other on the album. Over on side two, the band reveal Talk Talk to be an influence as the side contains five electro songs thare woozy and left of centre but definitely more straightforward than the bands later offering. Having said that, this is still a fine collection and there will no doubt be times when this disc will be chosen over the other, each having a personality of their own.