Niao – ‘Prayer’ [Review]

The second long-player from Niao (not to be confused with Ne-Yo or Nyan Cat, this is the duo of George Glikerdas and Gordon Spencer-Blaetz), ‘Prayer’ is a modest collection of seven tracks, thoroughly instrumental in spite of the lyric-less chants which lead each song.  Evoking the dead of summer, or perhaps an eternal summer, the LP defies its winter release and lends a convenient excuse to why this review comes so late [in truth, I had lost the disc behind a shelf].  With Afro-beat timbres just shy of Afro-beat grooves, and very far from Afro-beat declaration, the pair achieve a frequently mesmerizing minimalism akin to Terry Riley’s high-fidelity middle works, marked by a constant, rainbow road arpeggio across the album.  But far from an endless tapestry of drone, or an ADD cop-out to “chillwave” or some other such horseshit, the compartmental songification of each track affirms, implicitly, that this is in fact good old New Wave: the wild incantations of “Sway” recall the neophyte jubilee of The Creatures, like the punk’s revelation of his own (literal and figurative) voice in an earnest scat; with synthesized leads (no guitars), the stoned rhythm of “Aman Aman” moderates its tight sequencings by plodded percussion, measured by the long kerplunk of the crash cymbal (total misnomer in this case), recalling the shallow-water spirituals of Sun Araw; the title track has a gravity and propulsion like latter Talk Talk, Glikerdas even mouthing the dramatic vowels of Mark Hollis, only the lack of effects belie the scale and close proximity of this bedroom music.  The misfit between certain evocative titles and wordless delivery open a cozy nook of reflection in this otherwise “trippy” composition, best exemplified by “Computer Keyboard Oil”, which contrasts a motile percussion (guest drummer Austin Julian) and bleary keyboard which apparently have never met, like a mash-up of James Ferraro from now and three years ago.  Rousing, subtle, the key is what is not said.

Sailing Records LP/CD

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