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(61 min, Unicorn)
TRACK LIST: 1. Le Garden 20:11 2. Lenceul 3:58 3. De-regeneration 14:32 4. 198 8:40 5. Abandon 8:10 6. Derives 6:04 LINEUP: David Maurin - guitars, midi-guitar; flute Benjamin Croizy - keyboards, Mellotron Samuel Maurin - bass, Stick; synthesizer Frank Niebel - drums, percussion Roselyne Berthet - vocals
Prolusion. Originally a quartet, NIL was formed in France in 1999; singer Roselyne Berthet joined in 2002. They have two full-fledged albums to date: "Quarante Jours sur le Sinai" ("Forty Days on Sinai", 2001), a semi-concept opus with reference to one of the canonic Old Testament stories, and "Novo Sub Sole" (2005). Two years ago the group was part of the Gouveia Artrock festival, which was documented on DVD.
Analysis. Nil put a genuinely new twist on Space Rock, and they have made it all their own. I've heard many dozens of contemporary Space Rock and related bands over the years, and a lot of them sound almost exactly the same. (Solar Project would be the best among such.) It's so great to find that there are still truly creative artists out there, as is Nil, keeping the genre alive and evolving. This band performs a bewitching, fantastically intriguing and highly inventive music, which is beyond any comparisons, despite the fact that the style as such is easily recognizable. Typical also for the last track, Derives, the 20-minute opener Le Garden begins with the interplay between swirling waves of cosmic passages of synthesizer and compressed guitar solos, soon followed by the band's joint performance with Roselyne Berthet's ethereal vocals or vocalizations soaring over it. The following compositions are absolutely unpredictable, the themes constantly changing their configuration, though never illogically. Intense arrangements alternate with atmospheric ones, but the music always remains intricate and eclectic, even at its quietest moments. Stylistically, this stuff falls squarely between Symphonic Space Rock and Space Fusion. Overall however, it sounds so unique that I am certain I haven't heard anything like this until now. The music is often as quirky as King Crimson in the mid-seventies and is as imaginative and full of dramatics as Pink Floyd's "Animals", possessing a strong sense of mystery and magic, which reigns nearly everywhere on the album. Though now I feel compelled to point out where it doesn't. The shortest track, Lenceul, isn't devoid of a certain spell, but there are only vocals and slowly droning synthesizer passages; not much variety, to put it mildly, in comparison with the rest of the material. The two located in the middle of the album, De-regeneration and 198, are instrumental compositions. There are harsher, metallic guitar timbres are to be found on both, especially many on the latter, which features a lot of cracking riffs. These tendencies, especially in combination with the Mellotron patterns, add dynamism and eerie elements, further heightening the darker sound, the music still being amazingly intricate and compelling. Roselyne is back on the fifth track, Abandon. While there are piano passages, running all through the song, the structurally atmospheric characteristics of the preceding two tracks are vividly mirrored here. It's still a blend of Space Rock and Space Metal, of course. All four of the songs feature relatively little lyrical content and are largely instrumental by the highest standards. Roselyne also does vocalizations from time to time, but not as often as I'd have liked. She is a brilliant singer, so in-tune with her band mates' intentions and using her voice as another (and truly essential) instrument.
Conclusion. Nil's "Novo Sub Sole" is a must have for anybody considering himself a Prog lover, IMHO. This is Space Rock of the highest quality, without a single note referring to any of the genre's other representatives, with no stupid effects, electronics and the like 'genre costs'. It's just a masterwork. Top-20-2005
VM: November 13, 2005
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