Nudge: Infinity Padlock

Audraglint has spared no expense in presenting Nudge's Infinity Padlock: the four-track EP comes in a full-colour digipack with the recording and song titles displayed as embossed type on the front and back covers. But it's the rotting carcass of a bird on the front and the trails of smoke (produced by a missile or war plane?) on the back that's more indicative of the EP's character. The band captured on the new release sounds little like the extroverted, high-energy outfit documented on the 2005 full-length Cached (kranky) and subsequent12-inch Stack (Community Library). On those releases, the Portland-based trio of Honey Owens, Brian Foote, and Paul Dickow worked its way through a fertile mix of folk, drones, funk, post-rock, dancehall, and dub. The new material moves considerably closer to the style Owens has been developing in her Valet releases—an avant folk-blues style that admittedly dovetails naturally with the Nudge EP's downbeat subject matter: war (combat and drug), death, and other equally sunny themes. Spanning ten years, two of the EP's songs are old, two are new; two are sung by Owens and two by Foote (one-time Pulseprogramming member Marc Hellner also helps out on two tracks).

Belying the violence suggested by the song's title, Owens' soft quiver guides the subtly psychedelic “War Song” through a humid desert dream of strummed guitars and slowly lilting percussive rhythms. The eleven-minute centerpiece “Angel Decoy” pushes that psychedelic vibe further with electric guitars swelling into streams of fuzz and distortion with Foote's voice faintly audible at the rippling center of the music's vortex; the extended duration gives the music room to unspool into a fiery freakout episode during the song's second half. Owens' voice again hardly rises above a whisper on the considerably more electronically-oriented set-piece “Sickth” after which electric and acoustic guitars and Foote's vocalizing imbue the short closer “Time Delay Twin” with a bluesy psych-folk spirit.

Absent—at least for now—is the robust attack the band offered on previous releases; here the spring in its step is absent and the mood more lugubrious than euphoric. A Nudge full-length is reportedly scheduled to be issued by kranky in the coming year so it'll be interesting to see if the dour mood of Infinity Padlock carries over to the future release and, if it does, whether it's counterbalanced by some upbeat moments.

December 2008