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Nøkken - Nøkken (Polymath, 2021)



On this genre hopping slice of heaven, the mysterious Nøkken dips and dives through many audial realms and sublime soundscapes, but never fails to lose sight of the overall aim in getting you to think and getting you to move.


There's certainly something to be said about music that finds the middling spaces, the ground where paths cross and whimsical fantasies combine, and in many ways it's often how the artist chooses to bottle this essence and bring it to the boil that really captures the imagination. In the contemporary musical landscape, we have reached a point where genres really have overlapped with one another, through decades of cross-pollination and hybridisations that have led us to a point where singular sounds speak on multiple levels and records often contain a treasure trove of references for us to marvel over. As a formula it's easy to grasp but hard to master, and we often praise artists who see things operate and come together a little bit differently, their passions for multiplying their audial treads from one to many means that their music feels a little bit different, a little bit more intriguing. However, it's often a highly successful enterprise, and can lead to narratives being written which stick to listeners like glue, with the music found within these narratives deeply intriguing and something that can be returned to and pursed with a rigorous intensity. This kind of journey is stumbled across on numerous occasions, as we find ourselves at crossroads where the aphexes of varying genres have come together in a beautiful harmony, resulting in records that sound like things we know but always seeming to have surprises around the corner, a feature that results from the swings between tracks being wide but delicately balanced. As a musical experience, it doesn't get much better than that, as we are greeted with a vast array of audial spaces that cater for the downtimes, the uptempo moments, and the various inbetweens that soundtrack our walks to work or when we stare across a lonely vista. It's a variety in frequency and feeling which combine effortlessly to provide moments that operate on so many levels, with the listener placed firmly in the middle of proceedings and allowed to freely roam between differing spaces that remain interlinked with one another. Electronic music in general was built upon foundations that were always open to reinterpretation, to the continual development of morphologies and the ways in which genres overlapped with one another, and this sequencing has furthered the ideals of many threads throughout history. Today sees the climaxes of these journeys, the maximum potentials of indices that serve to frequently push the boundaries of possibility, time and space, not in a manner that feels rushed or ill fitting but within a set of parameters that feel incredibly relevant, enriching and bold to the brim. We see the wires begin to cross over one another, where strains of music all lead towards one goal of creating something meaningful, of pushing the boat out into the faraway waters, with the smoothness of the waves captivating us as we touch the surface with our finger tips, as ideas and fantasies start to play out in our heads. It's this kind of excitement that keeps us going, keeps us raring to move and keeps us very much contained with a forward momentum, with an eagerness swelling deep within us that holds us close as we explore every inch of possibility, as we find ourselves losing it within the middling grounds. A base to strike from, a place to conjure up something brilliant, with the artists who reside there holding a very special place in our hearts.


One such artist who very much exists between the realms of possibility and imagination is producer Nøkken, who seems be able to meld and bend genre stylings to his will in order to craft the most compelling of audial experiences. Nøkken has been around for a fair few years, in which he has honed his craft and be exploring the spaces that exist between genres, with this new name being just another incarnation within his journey, and what better place to release a genre defying record on than Third Son's Polymath imprint. Polymath has been pushing out some very interesting music indeed of late, with the discography largely elevated by the music of the label head, which in many ways is as dynamic and bold as the music which Nøkken will be presenting to us in a little moment, with records such as '20 Days', 'How I Learned to Stop Thinking' and 'Voices 2' all typifying the label's approach to sonic palettes and intriguing depth in relation to melody and feel. In short, the stars aligned for the music of a producer like Nøkken, who debuted on the label earlier with the 'DREAMZ' EP, with the 2 tracker featuring two cuts that would be present on the LP we are reviewing today, and it provided us with a little snapshot of things to come. And on that note, we arrive at the subject of today's review, the self titled Nøkken release, which in many ways touches upon a lot of the feelings we discussed in the opening paragraph, with plenty of flows washing through it that will leave you coming back time and time again. The music found within is filled to the brim with referential elements, placing you somewhere within the past but firmly within the present and indeed, the future, with a narrative playing out from the word go that's incredibly easy to get behind and even easier to fall in love with, as gorgeous tones and even more beautiful melodies float past us. The music elevates us to special places indeed, with lots of special moments found within the transitions from one kind of vibe to another, with each track shining very brightly indeed but standing shoulder to shoulder with one another. It's a remarkable piece of music, and one that we feel will remain very much within the public consciousness for years to come, such is it's staying power and depth, and on that note, lets dive into this beautiful piece of music.....


Up first comes 'RESONATE', and this one begins with the fluid like chordal arrangement that flows right into our laps. The chords do the rounds a couple of times before disappearing into the mist, and in this moment we are greeted by the gentle breeze of the bassline, which saunters along keeping a mystical kind of pace, with the pads returning one more time before vanishing into thin air as a delightful key line whispers to us from far away in the distance. This whole intro ensemble has certainly been building to something, but the space that is left behind and emphasised means that anything could slide into view, and just like that we are greeted with the swinging downtempo beat to really get us into the groove. The solo key line is given plenty of room here to fly up high above the mixture, as the chords return to provide further balance and feel to the track, with distant pads helping to fill the gaps inbetween delightfully. Additional rhythmic elements join into the mix as time passes by, and we we float onwards we feel a sense of bliss rush over us, and it's this kind of feeling that we think will be the key thread that links this record together. An excellent start. Up next comes 'FM', and like with the opener we are treated to some swelling pads to get us going. The chord rushes to the surface before dissapating into the thin air, as rhythmic arpeggio like acid keys move in and around the spaces underneath, with the spaces being created prime for a swinging beat to slide into view, and sure enough the drums come into the fray soon after. The kicks and snares delicately blend into the mixture, maintaining the spaces left behind by the chirpy key line, as the chords strike downwards when the moment feels just right, and overall it's a short but incredibly sweet blend that works on so many levels. Up next comes 'BEACON EDIT', and this one begins with the softest of drumming patterns to get us going. As time passes by the swelling chords and vocal snippets come into the view, their presence exceptionally short and cut off by a singular note at the end of each wave, as a deft bass line slides in underneath to give a little bit of ooft to proceedings. Then, out of nowhere, comes a solid as hell garage-esq line to really elevate matters into some special places, with Nøkken doing a great job at lulling us into a false sense of security before releasing us into a very different audial space indeed. The drums groove away before slowing down towards the end, providing some time to breath and a moment to revel in the gloriousness of it all, and for that we are eternally grateful.


Up next comes 'BEACON EXTENDED', and this one starts off once more with the drums to kick things off. The track is almost beat for beat with the EDIT version, with the usual short and sharp keys doing the business within a structure that you just know is going to kick off significantly in a few moments, except on this version the drums are allowed one final run through at the end, and that is always something to enjoy. 'DREAMZ' comes next, and this one starts off with the flickering hats and distant looping chord to get us going. The textures that resonate from the hats only grow more evident as time passes by, with plenty of time given over to helping the mixture reach it's perfected state of being, with plenty of thought given to how the drums continue to evolve and grow, and sure enough the kicks and snares arrive soon after to get the groove going on strong. The chord is left alone for the time being to move along with the underlying mixture, with a bassline joining in the fun soon after to keep the fire burning, with it's form shifting through the sands with an utmost certainty, as if it has a point to prove in rising higher and higher to the top. The blend of elements is compelling, willing us to venture forward in a haze like state as the varying sequences do much to move us forward to new states of being, with this feeling only intensifying as further key lines move into the mix. The break down helps us to clearly see all that this track is trying to achieve, and it's simply glorious, as we see proceedings out with a passing wave and a fond farewell. Up next comes 'CLIQUE', and this one starts off with the textured swells to kick things off. The pads then arrive like a glimmer of sunlight passing through the blinds on a cold winters day, as clicks help to set a sense of rhythm, with a tonally engaging arpeggio sequence moving in and out of time amongst the sea of enveloping elements. Further pads wash over the tops of the mountains with a graceful sublimity, as the arpeggio sequence grows in stature and presence, with it's journey climaxing with the introduction of the heavy set kicks, as we transition into the next phase of the experience. The various melodic elements all rise and fall as time passes by, with the consistent original chord acting like an anchor for the other elements to shift through the haze and find a space that befits their beauty. The arpeggio once again climaxes, before the track then descends into a melodicless segment that sees the power of the drums really take hold, and from this point onwards it's all about rebuilding the sonic palette, which Nøkken does masterfully, of course. What a journey.


'ME&FREJYA' comes next, and this one starts with the consistent kicks. The light percussive like sounds that emerge on top create an immediate sense of intrigue, as distant melodic features shift around among the top ends of the experience, and before long the bass line arrives to really kick things into the next gear. It's all about the subtleties on this cut, as chordal blemishes emerge then disappear with such grace and flair, and before long the hats arrive to give the momentum that little bit of extra kick, as further consistent elements start to make themselves known. The frequencies that are on display here are a stark contrast to the densities that proceeded it, but Nøkken shows here that he is as comfortable drifting along at this kind of pace as he is moving within the most layered of sonic spaces. The final section of the track sees the drums really double down, with cymbals and kicks thrown in to move the experience from a profoundly Minimal one and through into a fully blown Techno excursion, and it's handed superbly. 'FORM' comes next, and this one takes the tones down ever so slightly. The scale of the track feels quite cavernous, as the keys call out to us from deep within the plains, but the track is then condensed ever so slightly with the emergence of the drums and the gorgeous key lines that come to the front. The mix of melodic elements comes in the form of the chord progression that slowly evolves in the backdrop and the lovingly placed key lines that abound on top, and it's enough to put you into a trance like state indeed. The tone of the keys keeps on growing, scaling ever wider as time passes by, and we can feel the embrace in every bone in our body. Mesmerising stuff. Up next comes 'ESPIRIT', and this one takes the tempo up that little bit more. The drumming structure kicks things off, with an unmistakably Electro vibe underpinning proceedings, with plenty of elements included which provides a solid as hell foundation for things to come, with the bass line leading the way from a melodic point of view. The pause in rhythm allows for the main chordal arrangement to come into view, which only helps to push things onwards and upwards, as we become ensnared in the groove. The second dip in energy extends a bit longer, and before long we are pushed right back up into the momentum, with further key lines thrown in for good measure as time continues to pass us by at a wondrous pace, as a final breakdown merges our feelings with the track, and we are set for life.


'HAZE' comes next, and this one starts with the breezy feels to get us going. The textured approach gives way to the chords to pound their way into existence, and as they do their thing the lightest of kicks emerges from within to provide an initial sense of rhythm, and Nøkken once again turns the screws as the kicks emerge to really set the collective pulse running at fever pitch. The kicks help to bind all the intricate elements together, as sequences move in and out of time beautifully, as if they endeavour to weave around the rhythm with a real sense of intent, and this is exactly the feeling we get as we are carried along by this beautiful display of melody and groove. The track takes a pause, providing us with plenty of time to get to know the melodic features all over again, with a new key line thrown in to provide further feelings, and it's around this moment that it all kicks off once more, with continued swells permeating through to really get us moving onwards and upwards. Top notch stuff. To wrap things up on this wicked record, we have 'PROGRAMMED', and here we see the lightest of key lines get things started. The notes tinker and feel their way through the space, like a lifeforce intent on searching every nook within the immediate context, and as the frequency of the playing intensifies we see the pads come into view, and that swell really hits hard inside. The space between that first swell and the next feels like a lifetime, and yet it feels so real, so tangible, like no time had passed at all, with further sprinkling of keys added to really maximise the emotion placed behind the chords. The way in which the track climaxes with delayed notes and ever growing densities really takes the breath away, and in all it represents a fitting end to a record that never fails to dazzle with it's transposing and cross-referencing feel. Each track might be different, amazing and singular in it's own way, but there's a story being told here, through the simmering keys through to the delightful transitions, everything found here is solid gold, and rings true of the kind of Electronic Music that transcends the contemporary and reaches out into the future.


In this day and age, we yearn for the musicians and the records that combine so effortlessly the plethora of sounds that swirl around us, and when these records nail it on the head, it's a joy to behold, such is the quality and diversity of the content being presented to us. Nøkken is certainly one of these such artists, and with this new album he simply confirms it in flying colours, because the contents will take your breath away with it's incredible depth, melodic quality and sheer class in regards to production value. Each track feels meticulously constructed to appeal to a shade of the emotional spectrum, be it inner looking moments or times where the groove just takes hold and you can't help but more, there's so much here to unpack and get to know that you'll find yourself coming back time and time again to revisit the feelings that slide your way during the listen through. Emotional, tangible, ever present and ever evolving, it's the kind of music that points in all kinds of directions but remains remarkably focused, with an essence acting as an anchor for all manner of excellence to deviate and move off in multiple directions, and this only really occurs when you have a creative vision like Nøkken does. Superb, from start to finish, and this one is a record we cannot recommend enough.


Support the troops:


https://polymathlabel.bandcamp.com/album/n-kken-lp





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