Released: March 2015
Emanating from a thriving San Fransisco music scene, surrealist art-rock troupe Art Nikels bring all manner of experimental indulgence on their debut EP Primitives. An intricately blended mix of The Flaming Lips, Spacemen 3 and The Horrors, this West Coast ensemble launches into an eclectic exploration of sound on this debut release, producing highly engaging results. As a brief peek into the life of Art Nikels, Primitives is a teasing appetiser for what is to come.
Blanketed in distortion, delay and warped sound effects, the guitars, percussion and vocals all form one complete entity on this record. Everything is slightly out of place yet works in synchronicity with the other sections of the band, their disjointed and distorted sound achieving a fluidity that makes this band’s sound feel completely natural, despite its often incoherent approach. Rarely is a particular instrument pushed to the forefront of this act’s output, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to cling on to. In every corner and orifice of Art Nikels’ sound is some kind of intriguing melody or enthralling soundbite challenging our expectations and contributing to a sea of noise.
The first half of this seven track EP has a dream-like quality, the echoing vocals above tender hypnotic guitars of opener Hesitation Makes continuing on through interlude People Loving Sauce and Red Red Woods. The latter track is a particularly affecting song, its haunting, dormant sound developing into a mass explosion of noise, a real gut-punching outro that has a tuneful vocal melody float above a completely unmelodious rhythm section. This signals a change in tone almost half way through the record, and is a typical example of the band’s ability to fuse melody and tunefulness with the droning guitars that characterise their more upbeat work.
Hue and Visitor are probably the only two songs that showcase a particular element of the band’s setup above other instruments, as the vocals well and truly come to the forefront. The raw, unpolished vocal delivery of the former track is at odds with the dreamy guitars and superbly coordinated 3/4 beat, until the song properly kicks in a few minutes in and the whole arrangement comes together. It is a welcome development, though one that would have made more sense earlier on in the song; for a lot of the time listeners are left wondering just where this band’s music is aiming to go. Thankfully Visitor remedies this issue, crescendoing within a minute and developing further with added layers of sound as it goes on.
A real aural odyssey and one hell of a statement for a first release, Primitives bodes well for the future of Art Nikels. A sublime cocktail of elaborate melody, unconventional rhythm and enigmatic effects, this EP is fiercly affecting when all of its secrets are fully unravelled. At times things fail to actually go anywhere, and some may have issues with the record’s lack of direction, but for the time being most listeners will be perfectly happy getting lost with this San Fransisco collective.