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Niagara – Apologia – Album Review

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Until fairly recently, the Portuguese label Principé Discos wasn’t much of a household name outside certain dance music circles.  That’s pretty understandable. Historically speaking,  the label has primarily been referenced within the context of its role popularizing batida music, a frenetic hybrid genre combining traditional African rhythms with modern house and techno.  Chances are if you weren’t into the sound, you probably had no idea of the label’s existence. While Principé has held a reputation for consistently great dance releases since 2012, the last few years have seen the label stretch its tentacles into indie and synthpop domains. Thom Yorke has routinely featured DJ Marfox in his DJ sets and just last year Fever Ray tapped Nidia for help in crafting Plunge’s arresting centerpiece ‘IDK About You’. With Principés most recent release, Niagara’s Apologia looks beyond the confines of batida and explores digital landscapes that blend the organic and ancient with the cerebral and futuristic.

As a full band, Niagara already distinguishes itself from their labelmates. A collaborative process, the trio builds psychedelic arrangements from crystalline synth arpeggios and rigid MIDI melodies. Tracks such as ‘França’ and ‘6:30’ have a decidedly analog sound with out-of-sync loops cycling through a wilderness of squelches, distorted vocals, and glissando harp strums. The serene ‘Senhora Do Cabo’ drifts through the same ruins where Richard D. James crafted his SAW series with sub-arctic synth pads and an ocean of reverb. While Principé’s more dance-music focussed releases use percussion to enforce an animated and rickety foundation of rhythm, Niagara employs congas and marimbas in a manner more in-line with a wind-chime; sparse, accidental, and melodic. As a result, the album is simultaneously painstakingly refined and feral, using traditional instrumentation but filtered through plasticky audio workstations of a Fairlight synthesizer.

In summary, and as a last-ditch attempt to bypass all the music-nerd jargon above, Niagara’s Apologia is the sound of Steve Reich tossing Dino Dino Jungle into a blender and washing it down with some cough syrup. I’m into it.

 

NIAGARA: MOMENTO BRAGA

 

 

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