Inventive duo Nadja draft four unique voices to color the guts of reflective opus ‘Labyrinthine’

Artists that have an endless thirst to create music is fascinating to me as I have periods of time where I can’t get motivated to do much of anything. This site is a miracle sometimes that it even exists in a regular cadence that took years to figure out. Please clap. But knowing there are bands that seem to be in constant creation mode blows me away, and that always leave me in a sense of awe.

Toronto-bred duo Nadja now hail from Berlin, and their existence has been a constant barrage of releases, none of them sounding alike. Their latest is “Labyrinthine,” which was created concurrently with their recent Southern Lord release “Luminous Rot,” and one of the main features of this album (other than the brain-stimulating music) is a guest vocalist for each song, who we will cover below. The record was, according to the album’s promotional details, inspired by Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore, Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Tombs of Atuan, and Victor Pelevin’s reinterpretation of the story of the minotaur and Ariadne, The Helmet of Horror, and explores themes such as identity, loss, regret, and the distinction between labyrinths and mazes. Each track exists as its own creation, and the singer for each leave their own stamps that are indelible and help make the track what it is. I have a wide array of favorite Nadja releases, but this one is up there, with time and familiarity eventually figuring just where it will land.  

The title track opens and runs 14:10, and it features Alan Dubin, volatile vocalist for bands such as Khanate and Gnaw, and he adds something properly unhinged to what are otherwise thought-massaging passages. His wild shrieks penetrate as the band builds a sound cloud that glimmers with electricity. “Are you beast or are you man?” Dubin howls as the track basks in static, lulling your mind into a false sense of security as the doomy waters build. “Something claws at me!” Dubin levels over and over again as the track hovers, melts, and swirls away. “Rue” is a 12:37-long adventure that has Rachel Davies, vocalist/bassist for the alluring Esben and the Witch, and she immediately helps the song sink into foggy terrain. The playing slowly emerges as Davies taunts, “Watch me burning,” as the playing meanders in and out of shadows, never letting you feel secure. “Looking for the light ahead,” Davies calls as the playing slowly drubs, and then things scorch your flesh, noise grows more dangerous, and the buzzing intensifies and fills your ears like a late summer evening in a cicada symphony.

“Blurred” features Lane Shi Otayanii of the great Elizabeth Colour Wheel, and she adds a sultry, jazzy edge to this 17:14-long excursion. Noise swells as the drone engulfs, and Otayanii’s singing stretches out past the stars, bringing you along with her. Everything thickens as the vocals swirl, floating and haunting, making every cell in your body activate. Otayanii’s rich voice drips like honey, wordless calls move through your bones, and then she unleashes a spine-jarring shriek as the playing succumbs to echoes. Closer “Necroausterity” is the longest track at 18:57, and it features vocalist Dylan Walker from grind beasts Full of Hell, and he brings the proper amount of volatility. Growls swell as the savagery folds, the vocals sound like they’ve entered an acid bath, and you’re absolutely gutted just as the playing gets dreamier, calming your frayed nerve endings. Walker’s vocals reawaken and dig into your bones, strange throat singing haunts, and everything deliberately dismantles your psyche, lurching and bleeding away.

Nadja always have been prolific and generous with their creations, but “Labyrinthine” is one of the most inventive and unique on their massive resume. Every vocalist Nadja chose to work with on these songs brings something completely unique from the rest, and Baker and Buckareff shape-shift their sound around them, forming four completely different experiences. This record is a real treat, something in which longtime Nadja fans are sure to indulge heavily as they experience these new ripples from this imaginative duo.

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