CD REVIEW: The Nyquist Frequency – Elephant Art
By Chip Withrow - 03/24/2007 - 03:32 PM EDT
Artist: The Nyquist Frequency
Album: Elephant Art
I find myself getting these intriguing everything-but-the-kitchen-sink CDs fairly often. I agree with the philosophy - put out all your best songs, even if they are wildly varied thematically and stylistically.
These discs come from musicians who are ambitious and adventurous – perhaps overly so. If you read my reviews, you will find that I have an affinity for these kinds of artists. I like the understated folk albums too, but I’ll also take a big, bold statement of weirdness like that which Keith Nyquist and friends deliver.
Elephant Art is quirky – heck, within the first three tracks I find shades of Queen, Crazy Horse, the Beatles, Brian Wilson, raga and ‘80s dance club. After that, the disc settles into more of a folk-rock vibe, with hints of the Velvet Underground, REM, Brian Wilson, the Smiths and Smashing Pumpkins.
(At least that’s what I hear. And I want to add that if you can combine all those influences, you aren’t copying – you’re onto something original.)
“Mirrorland” launches the disc with a blast of glam-rock guitar, then falls into oddly pretty harp (the stringed kind, not harmonica)/ voice interplay. The lyric “You are floating now” aptly describes the feeling of listening.
“The Wheelbarrow” begins hypnotically – acoustic guitar, single piano and organ notes, spooky, almost overheard vocals. The drums come in to add a pulsing, strobe-lit club feel.
“Sand” is Lennon-esque, with the added treat of multi-tracked monster guitar heroics – Nyquist is quite a player, and by this track I was expecting a full disc’s worth of early ‘70s art-rock weirdness. And that was OK by me.
But then comes a wicked curveball – the infectious “Arctic Circle,” with big ol’ reverb-heavy grungy-yet-chiming guitar and sung/shouted-yet-harmonized vocals. “Tullster,” a couple of tracks later, is just as catchy. (Try as I might, I’ve re-listened to the lyrics and I have no idea where the titles come from.)
“Inn: Another Life” is so cool – imagine all the really good ’80s MTV power pop bands (Smiths, Cure, Ultravox) with the Beach Boys singing. The poppy, more acoustic “Sunflower” has similar appeal, with a sweet synth riff.
“Dark Skies” is propulsive like “Life” and “Sunflower,” but with slightly discordant ‘70s arena rock guitar work – if “That ‘70s Show” had been a much, much better program, this would have been its theme song.
Acoustic numbers are tossed around the album like change-ups (I’m writing this from Florida, and I've baseball spring training on my mind). “Parsifal Saturday Nights” is the wildest of the acoustic numbers – trippy, with distorted volleys of electric guitar.
Like a lot of these wildly varied discs I like, I find new shimmering twists with each listen – right now it’s the fun “ba-ba-ba-ba-ba” vocals that close the album on “Sunset.” I noticed Nyquist’s guitar playing the first time through; the second time I caught the keyboard flourishes (he plays those, too). Think I’ll go back and listen to the words this time to see if there’s any relationship at all to the titles.
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