Album Reviews: Dirty Nil, Emma Ruth Rundle, Rhye
The Dirty Nil — F*ck Art (Hamilton, ON)
To kick off 2021 with a thrash and a yell, The Dirty Nil are having a ton of fun on their new record. Fast, riff-heavy and personal, this record straddles indulgence and catchy energy for music that will be great to dance to when that's possible again. "Doom Boy" balances a sense of self-aware lyricism and genuine excitement for a love song that is able to play to caricatures and mock them in the next line. This hits a vocal high on "Elvis '77" as the group really works their magic in the melodies, and bring out an amazing slide guitar to land a more nostalgic feeling. Though there's a definitely familiar feeling to "Hang Yer Moon," but it brings out a lot of character in its bass grooves to set itself apart from many similar songs. The Dirty Nil also take a more playful writing game to "To The Guy Who Stole My Bike," and complement this a warm and kind of desert-like sound in their guitars.
Rhye — Come in Closer (Single) (Toronto/Los Angeles)
Where much of Rhye's work up until now has focused Mike Milosh's voice through darker ambiance, their latest single suggests a new dawn. "Come in Closer" feels like a roar emotionally when contrasted against much of the project's previous work, whether this is purely personal or a reflection of a singular creative voice remains to be seen. There's a great focus on the warmth of Milosh's delivery, as they seem to guide the instrumentation to respond back. There's a wondrous joy struck between the bass grooves and the swelling strings, as they provide this dynamic rise in euphoria. Every section feels like it drifts from this initial hope to a full embracement of something better as its happening. The full realization of this sonically lands perfectly, as the song constantly swaps between jam and a full-fledged dance banger.
Viagra Boys — Welfare Jazz (Stockholm, Sweden)
The right blend of a riff-band and weird sonic exploration is a powerful combo, and Viagra Boys find that pocket beautifully. Playing with brass, electronics, a shifting vocal style and poetic writing style, this is a wonderfully unpredictable record. The dark, digital fury of "Ain't Nice" is genuinely unnerving, while often making you want to just get up and shake out as hard as possible to its brutal simplicity. Like a greaser Elvis Presley, "Toad" feels like part spoken-word story, and part vicious motorcycle punk anthem, with all the grit that comes with it, and a little sax. "Secret Canine Agent" is a hazy, electronic rush of violent sound, and warped sax's that come in like finessed two-minute punk track gem. They even take a cowboy-tinged break to cover John Prine with Amyl and the Sniffers Amy Taylor for "In Spite of Ourselves" to create a perfectly grimy duet from people who can make it feel real.
Virgil Abloh — Delicate Limbs feat. Serpentwithfeet (Rockford, IL)
Mixing a strong producer with the unhinged stylings of Serpentwithfeet, this new collaboration is a mesmerizing listen. As synths brood with an organ-like grandeur, the pair find a power in letting their harmonies swirl like ghostly bodies, mounting tension higher and higher. With a jazzy freedom to the drums the song feels like it may just float on this tone forever, though the drums end up driving the entire movement of the piece as they land in the second half. As a truly cinematically-scoped song, the track delivers a satisfying drop into its full form, letting the chaos go from frightening to commonplace in its louder moments.
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou — May Our Chambers Be Full (Louisville, KY/Baton Rouge, LA)
Emma Ruth Rundle's musings have always come with a massive weight, and with Thou in tow, it hits all the harder. The serene beauty that Rundle continues to land in the midst of all this is so divine, it creates a great record to promote cross genre-fandoms. "Killing Floor" has a brutal heft to every riff, but the bright allure of its core guitars allow Rundle to shine as a calm in the storm. The much more rhythmic chug to "Ancestral Recall" has a spiritual overtone in its sounds, with an mysterious, eerie tone lingering in the back before ostensibly revealing itself in shrieks. Though "Magickal Cost" does play on similarly booming grounds, the free-flowing nature of its drums stand out as some of the most powerful moments in this collaboration. By slow-burning her fire on "The Valley" however, Rundle is able to create this churning power with Thou to close out the record on a menacing crawl of shadowy rock.