Thursday, October 1, 2009

As Good As Gone - Nudge

As Good As Gone

Kranky Records.

SCQ Rating: 84%

While hardly one of Kranky’s most prolific acts, Nudge deserve the recognition of being among the label’s most irreplaceable. Navigated by Brian Foote, whose mixing and production work have recently helped birth debuts by Atlas Sound and Lotus Plaza, Nudge also features the talents of Paul Dickow (from Strategy) and Honey Owens (of Valet). Amassing these unique electronic artists not only forms Kranky’s sole supergroup, it anticipates the collective’s long-awaited follow-up to Cached; a record that fused worldly dub to an eager assortment of clattering experimentation. Well, the wait is over. Closing a five-year absence, Nudge return with a recording that cloaks itself in winter-still atmospheres yet is too imaginative and unruly to hibernate.

Leaving Cached’s spunky demeanor to 2005, As Good As Gone is an entirely different creature; serene and cagey at first glance, these songs carry menace with such a delicate touch, listeners are liable to be soothed into the record’s creeping paralysis. Opening amid the warm afterglow of ‘Harmo’, Nudge appear content to craft a quaint ambient piece when its acoustic charms are gradually, systematically devoured by an encroaching darkness led through Owens’ frosty vocals. This ominous mood – neither anxiety-free nor downright sinister – surrounds these seven compositions and limits our field of vision, complimenting and contrasting the whitewash of ‘Verdantique’ with the anchored dub of ‘Two Hands’. The most haunting track, ‘Aurolac’, also happens to be the most conservative, rippling crystalline guitar codas off downcast bass-lines while the lighter ‘Tito’ endures hordes of eccentric buzzes and twangs for Owens’ airy singing, mouthing words without syllables. As odd a pairing as these tracks are neighboured together, ‘Aurolac’ and ‘Tito’ both exude patient breakdowns that push Nudge beyond easy classification. Sure, As Good As Gone lives up to its ambient leanings but it’s too progressive and shape-shifting to rest as evening mood-music. From jam-band structured breakdowns to the psychedelic guitar-squall on ‘Two Hands’, Nudge defies labeling (well, until that ambient-prog tag catches on) and rewrites the standards to which left-field electronic records should strive for.

As the aptly titled ‘Dawn Comes Light’ clears the fog with a long-form rumination, rising and settling by a lone guitar, a rapturous distortion erupts like sunlight burning Nudge’s fragile atmosphere into twinkling ethers. And although this deafening close, like other individual tracks, sheds little light on a narrative, As Good As Gone’s song-cycle is too cohesive and playful to cast off as unattached experiments. This is chilling head-candy, full of lavish soundscapes and raw instrumentation that equate to more than the sum of its parts. Challenges and rewards abound, Nudge have reemerged offering us a record worth sneaking into hibernation with… and right in time.

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