N (46) / [BOLT]
Midira Records (LP/DL)
Eschewing an album title, and having songs titled only by length, the already unadorned entity that is N (46) / [BOLT] return with a third full length that abandons much of the more ambient amblings of their previous work. Comprised of 4 long-form tracks, the album walks a fairly respectable, if well-trodden path, through the sort of doomy, post-metal drone popularised by Sunn O))) and their ilk.
It takes some getting used to the fact that their is no drummer – the whole affair is contingent upon the type of heavily distorted guitar parts that are so often accompanied by pounding drums, and though the equally-as-distorted bass occasionally fills the void, there is no escaping that at times things feel lacking. Whilst distinctly competent, the degree to which the musicians rely upon their genre risks upending any of the more confrontational aspects that such a barrage of distortion might otherwise present. This is far more obvious on tracks 2 and 4, which struggle with both an extremely repetitive structure and fairly hum-drum riffs. The loud bits are loud, and the quiet bits are quiet, and occasionally we oscillate between the two, with fairly nondescript guitar parts providing the entirety of the sonic and compositional merit.
In contrast, the first and third tracks seem a much better example of what I presume the band were hoping to achieve – here the guitar feels more synthetic in nature, proceeding with a sparsity that successfully offsets the heavy distorted chords that follow. The repetition is less pronounced due to the glacial tempo, with nuanced modulations of distortion framing an arguably more complex relationship between the two primary instruments. The third track in particular is unfathomably heavy, transcending the need for a drummer in a way that none of the other tracks quite achieve. It is a powerful, tense composition, and one that could quite easily last for a good half hour without encountering boredom. Several minutes elapse before we are even introduced to the guitar, which upon arrival elicits a clever compositional device wherein it follows a ever-so-slightly altered chordal path than that of the bass, at once providing extra weight to the drawn-out, repetitive sound world, and simultaneously pulling it subtly in a different direction altogether.
This is in no way a bad album – if you’re a big fan of the sort of post-metal drum/drone that it espouses you will no doubt find much to love. The rest of us, however, may well be put off by the lack of originality that is its calling card, its brazen decision to do nothing out of the ordinary. And if that feels a little harsh, it is definitely not always a bad thing – those moments where the album pulls back, focusing on a small handful of slowly unfolding notes emerging from a sea of distortion, are really quite enjoyable despite their tropisms, and firmly point to a rich, sparse compositional field that could easily be explored were its musicians to perhaps take a few more risks.