“Crossbred between post rock, math rock and electronic music, Zero Absolu is a modern one-man band, based on loops where electronic music intervenes with diverse musical instruments to which sampled texts & poems are overlaid”.
The above is the mission statement of Nak, a hardworking French musician that deserves far more attention than he appears to be receiving.
Autømn is the third album Nak has written under the Absolu moniker, after 2011’s double album ‘Dans les bras de Morphée’, and 2007’s debut offering ‘du vide au néant’.
Nak clearly prides himself on creating what he’s calling ‘experimental atmospheres’ and after a first listen of this record, you’d be hard pressed to argue with him. The opening trio of tracks make use of long, delayed guitar phrases that float along to the speed of carefully placed drum loops. To some extent it lulls you into a false sense of what’s to follow – if you’re expecting more of the same, you’d be wrong. What we get halfway through the third track (The Hill) is a rousing, epic chord – driven chorus, with Nak belting out the lyrics “I run, breathless, faster and faster up to the hill, to see the other side, hoping for the best before the day I die. My chest is burning and my lungs so dry. I’m so Alive”. It’s an album highlight that you’ll want to go back to again and again. A surprising but equally stirring moment shortly follows this track, with the arrival of ‘Hello darkness, Hello gentle moon’. This track is a brooding but beautiful mixture of those same reverb-heavy guitar tracks and processed beats, but overlaid is a piece of pastoral poetry, which when coupled together creates a startling vision of poetic beauty.
The following track (the title track) is yet another surprise, with an angular, almost bluesy riff opening the track, before being joined by more instruments and slowly building to its overdriven and compelling coda.
The latter half of the album retains the beauty and pace of the opening half, using techniques from each of his influenced genres to pull together his evocative imagery.
There are a number of bands that Nak seems to have pulled specific influence from. The slow building guitar parts are straight out of Mogwai’s back catalogue, while Strike It Down attacks the listener in a similar vein to 65daysofstatic. In Vertigos and Confusions Nak allows the drum track to take precedence initially whilst the guitar part rings out, fading into eerie, echoey space. This use of space recalls the more relaxed tracks of Deftones, as well as the chorus, which effortlessly and constantly pounds the listener with energy and emotion. The only thing missing from the comparison with the Sacramento band is the accompanying vocals. Unfortunately Nak hasn’t quite hit the spot with some of the vocal passages on the album. Although lyrically they fit happily alongside the borderline apocalyptic sounds and atmospheres of Autømn, the power and quality of his vocals don’t quite match that of the instrumentation and composition. During many tracks the vocals are so quiet on the mix that you can barely hear them, which is unfortunate as the lyrical quality is very high.
That minor quibble aside, what we end up with in this record is a haunting and compelling concoction of dark and darker. As the record rushes to it’s impassioned climax you feel swept up in the anger and power of it all. All I can hope for is that more people experience this. Because Nak deserves that much.
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