Quality, not quantity

Being a fan of Toronto/Berlin doom/drone/psych duo Nadja is no easy feat, especially if you’re a rabid fanatic like I am. If you think you’re ready to take the leap and become a Nadja vinyl completist, better pack some extreme diligence and deep pockets, as the band released 20 records in 2010 alone. Just as I was getting all caught up with my Nadja wax collection during their two-year studio hiatus, they hit back hard with one of their strongest releases yet.

On their most recent record, Dagdrom (on Broken Spine), it seems the time away from the studio has paid off well, with a retooling of their sound that provides the perfect point for the Nadja novice to plunge headlong. With drummer Mac McNeilly (Jesus Lizard) now manning the traps, Nadja have retained the apocalyptic doom they’re known for. And with McNeilly’s confident and inventive percussion work, they’re able to push the songs into unlikely directions and further away from their familiar soundscapes, while only adding further ballast to their dynamics.

Again, Nadja’s talent for creating dense sheets of sound is still without equal, but things are definitely a little different this time around. You could chalk it up to live drums replacing their familiar drum machine, or the two-year recording hiatus, but Aidan Baker’s hushed vocals finally get nudged closer to the top of the mix here, tempos get slightly pushed as composition and traditional form come more to the fore. Their crawling crescendos are left intact but McNeilly’s restraint, swing and punch just add further drama to their sludge. Things definitely get doomy and shoegazey, but their penchant for burrowing into their familiar drone of cacophony is pulled way back here.

Most of us have been perched on the edge of our chairs since the recent announcement that My Bloody Valentine will finally release the follow-up to their monstrous Loveless record next month, but don’t be surprised if Nadja have already beat them at their own game.

Hopefully most of you are still reeling from the true musical ascension that was the Om show last night (best show of the year next to the Swans? Mos def!), but there are plenty more reasons to hit up the local watering holes and venues this week.

Tuesday – Don’t miss a chance to catch oud player/guitarist/composer/improv musician and dude among dudes Sam Shalabi when he locks horns with Jason Sharp at Cagibi.

Wednesday – Fresh off of her drone jams with Man Forever last week, Besnard Lakes bassist Olga Goreas returns to the wheels of steel at Notre Dame des Quilles under the handle DJ Oggy. If you recall Oggy’s weekly residence at Korova many moons ago, you know this is not to be missed. Expect shoegaze, sludge metal, ’90s indy pop, ’60s orch pop, ’70s prog and FM dial radio hits.

Thursday – NDQ remains the place to be when DJ Pascha resurrects her monthly night Save Us. Expect the eclectic that can run from smooth R&B to raunchy punk rock.

Also happening is the rapid return of Metz with Absolutely Free and Young Lungs (who played a great show at l’Esco last week, incidentally) at Il Motore.

Friday – One of Montreal’s fiercest performers, Bloodshot Bill, will put the sweat on the walls of Sala with Capital Tease Burlesque and Jitterbug Swing.

For your hardcore fix this week, check out the Reagan-era h.c. of Scarlet Beast with No at Barfly.

Saturday – One of Montreal’s most unsung bands, Squalor, will lay down their instrumental beat down at Barfly with Chomp and Ashtray Heart.

For the PBR punks, you can check out Ottawa’s Boyhood (ex-White Wires), Ottawa/Halifax’s Cold Warps and Dream Girls at Drones Club (ask a Mile Exer). ■

CURRENT OBSESSION: Nadja, Dagdrom

jonathan.cummins@ gmail.com

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