In 2010 we were supposed to have flying cars, supposed to have reached Jupiter via phallus-shaped spaceship and supposed to be eating liquified ahi tuna steak out of toothpaste tubes. But here we are, humanity still cruising shabby Carl’s Jr. parking lots in Chevy Nova’s with missing hubcaps and the only things that seem to have made a least a modicum of a paradigm shift over the last few decades are film and sound.
Consider Portland’s Nice Nice – the newest addition to the cybernetic Warp family, who’s a duo equal parts Battles, Boredoms and the Ewok Village. Extra Wow, their tenth release in as many years, stakes a noisome claim at the outposts of future sonics and in the postiest of post-rock, where familiar idioms and genre discussions have all the awkwardness of business casual at a black tie. Extra Wow establishes to the uninitiated that Nice Nice are many things, but classifiable they are not.
If one were to take a stab by simply reading their label roll, one might arrive at the conclusion that Nice Nice belong in the burgeoning psych-folk house that Fat Cat built — which is not far off, considering the plentiful and repetitive vocal chants and drum circle rhythms, all of which swim in a soup of freeform psychedelic ether. Essential ingredients for a bearded bliss out.
Extra Wow kicks off with the pomp and bombast of “Set and Setting,” an anthemic drum mantra married to pulsing waves of neo-psych drone, then promptly swan dives into the orgiastic cacaphony of “One Hit” before getting its nose back up into Dayglo-rainforest territory with the track “A Way We Glow.” It’s an ebb and flow that dances through the rest of the album, across a wide spectrum of dissonance and the sublime, and makes the entire work seem like a single fifty-one minute, nineteen-second song.
Discernable influences make themselves known, however subtly, such as the nod to krautish motorik in “A Vibration” and the chaotic ’69 Haight-Ashbury electric piano freakouts throughout. Strong flavors of Japanese mindbenders such as OOIOO permeate the record, as well as hidden-in-the-mix vocals that bring to mind the hazy production values of shoegaze.
A virginal listener might easily write off Extra Wow as yet another act riding the future-folk wave. And let’s face it, if it weren’t for the Animal Collectives and Fuck Buttons of the world getting picked up and spitshined by curators such as Warp Records and Fat Cat, experimentalists like Nice Nice might forever be relegated to the Unclassifiable bin in the darkest corners of Amoeba Records.
Word on the streets of OR is that these fellows have a phenomenal live set. Their previous label, Temporary Residence, said of their performance, “Most shocking is the fact that it’s largely improvisational and always live.” If you understand that what Nice Nice does doesn’t involve samples and sequencing but rather endless tape and pedal loops masterfully manipulated by hand, rhythmically intricate songs like “See Waves” demand a whole new level of admiration. Possibly framed against this notion, an otherwise simply interesting album might have a better chance of coming together and surviving a passive, forgettable first listen.
Frankly, you won’t find yourself humming anything off Extra Wow, nor will you find the familiar tension and release of a verse-chorus construct. But you might find yourself stacking your next party playlist with a track or three for the added “pomo” ambiance while guests peruse your latest MOMA wall hangings. Extra Wow is a futuristic cruise with no real destination in mind, where points A and B and the distance between them are irrelevant, the future is always sometime next week and ahi tuna still comes on a plate. If that kind of ambling journey suits you, then you’ll probably be ecstatic about Extra Wow. If not, you may find it dull.