Nadia Struiwigh - Oooso (Nous'klaer Audio, 2021)
Struiwigh reminds us all once more of her extraordinary musical range on another brilliant record that moves very quickly from the deep and eerie to the tantalising and up lifting.
Electronica as a notion is endlessly ambitious, thought provoking and continually shifting, and for those who operate within its 4 invisible and seemingly ever expanding walls there is much to be achieved through the art of continual reinvention. Reinvention being used here very much in a positive way, as it represents for many artists the chance to tweek and mould their sound on a consistent basis, with the music they look to push out the door always keeping the audience on their toes as to its nature and form. We stand on the periphery of it all, eager to understand and absorb all that is offered up to us as the vibe twists from one paradigm to the next, with our mindset having to creatively adjust to all that might flow out from just a singular discography. Electronic music has so many strands, genres and movements embedded within it that it makes sense for many producers to look to the crossroads of sound, where their differing passions can come to the surface as a full realised and fleshed out concept that draws from so much of what came before and indeed what consists of the contemporary musical landscape in its many shapes and forms. These artists dismiss the concept of well trodden tropes and the boxed in nature of staying true to just one genre and instead embark on a journey that looks to emphasise their core musical identity via the placement of their values within differing genres and moods, and thus a thread is formed that holds together their increasingly diverse sound that does much to move the mind and the soul of the listener. It's not quite enough to endear to just one genre, but instead to the multiple, and that in turn gives rise to a uniqueness that resides within the producer in question, and its an approach to music making that ensures that music in general keeps moving things onwards and upwards. Electronica has always contained these kinds of artists who reached across to explore the extreme parameters of not just their sound but also the creative process that gives rise to that sound, with a staunch embrace of all that contains a semblance of possibility. As an umbrella genre, Electronica does as much as it can to remove the idea of instrumental constraint, merely - along with the assistance of technology - enabling producers to reach for the furtherest galaxy and bring back something of real note, of real vision and flair, of in depth substance. Keyboards, computers, drum machines, they all serve as tools to the expansive mindset of those willing to dip themselves right into a series of soundscapes that contain an immense level of intrigue and wonderment, tasking the listener with getting up to speed in the most delightful and imaginative kinds of ways. The universe has since the mid 20th century rapidly become populated with individuals and discographies that serve as gentle reminders of the trodden paths that persist across the gleamed skies, and its these journeys that still inspire many to enter into a world that still has a significant amount to offer. Its a case of giving a little, taking a little, and some are able to give over so much more because that initial element of taking set off a series of explosions in the minds of many of the genre's most esteemed individuals. Today, even in a very dense marketplace, there is plenty of time for innovation within the varying morphologies of genres that take place, with each tread that starts to develop looking like a giant leap forward as we continually push forward into new eras and spaces of understanding and enjoyment of sound.
Nadia Struiwigh remains one of those artists who began her journey very much with a mindset to continually transcend, morph and blur the many lines that persist within dance music in general, with her discography a beautiful example of how playing around with genre tropes can lead to some fascinating results. Struiwigh's music constantly expands and contracts within its fluctuating boundaries, with the tunes showcasing a real sense of dexterity in regards to mood building and melody, not to mention the swings into experimental territories that provide a beautiful contrast. This sense of diversity is apparent throughout her releases, with a range that takes in the timeless quality of melodic techno, the dips and dives of intricate IDM, the warm sensibilities of ambient soundscapes, and seemingly everything inbetween those genres that almost serve as the lifeblood for Struiwigh's intriguing sound. Not content to rest on laurels for too long, Struiwigh seems to relish the concept of consistently adding to and layering up her audial identity with each passing release, with the concepts becoming more bold and expansive as we move through the releases from the initial up to the present day. This is the sign of someone unafraid to innovate and expand, to try out and explore new facets of their sound and to step out beyond and look into how new elements can fit within an expanded universe. Its a refreshingly contemporary kind of approach to music making, where the expectations remain firmly focused on moving the vibe onwards and upwards rather to essentially accumulate features and feels as part of an ever engrossing sphere of sonics, and as journeys go Struiwigh's is a deeply profound one. Her discography is filled to the brim with creativity and a knack for the unusual yet extraordinary, with her narrative kicking off with 'Dimension' and 'Sigium' in 2012 and then 'Bit Bites' in 2013, all of which were released within a percussive deep techno spectrum but showed glimpses of the wonderment that were going to follow. 'Parallax' would follow in 2015, which moved the focus into intricately layered soundscapes that were filled to the brim with features, nodes and layers, which in many ways set the stage for her 2017 debut LP, 'Lenticular'. The album is truly superb, with all the hallmarks of those hazy 90s dream like ambient techno/trance tropes running through the core of the album, but there's plenty of melodic excellence found within too that highlighted Struiwigh as an artist to really keep an eye on. She would push the boat out even further still with the highly anticipated LP follow up, 'WHRRu', which arrived in 2018 and focused more on the keys and sonics of her sound, with the resulting cuts mesmerising to listen to. And finally, she released a wicked live to vinyl cut alongside Legowelt on the 2019 split single 'Madness Swims Behind Me/Sgrol Ma', with Struiwigh's cut a transfixing swell of delicate arpeggios and strong as hell percussive undercurrents. In all, her works are a real joy to get to know, as you see the processes and passions come together in really exciting and memorable ways, with Struiwigh doing all she can to represent the varying strands of electronica she calls her own. Her music moves across the plains of existence with ease, moving from enriching percussive laden numbers through to tunes of such ethereal emotion that its hard to stop the tears from running down your cheeks, and this in itself gives her music such depth, presence and meaning. Her talents lie in both the application of technique and her outlining of experience, something that is able to expand and contract with each passing track, with the resulting sound something that remains very much hers and hers alone. If you like your electronic music colourful, seeped in personality, indefinitely expandable and beautifully conceived and delivered, then why not give her previous works a try, you really won't regret it!
And now we arrive at her latest record, 'Oooso', which lands via the Dutch imprint Nous'klaer Audio. From the off we are greeted to Struiwigh's visionary take on electronic music, with each cut highlighting her ability to blend and merge tonally and texturally significant elements together in a bliss fuelled harmony that only gets better each time you listen to it. The cuts are very much each to their own in that they all cater for a differing mood, a spectrum of mental states that will certainly wrap themselves around any context they might find themselves within. Its a sprinkling of excellence that bores its way deep within the grooves, a metallic like structure that assumes a liquid like form that spreads above and beyond its structure to reach out across to us from across the space between audio and visual cues, with the visceral nature of the tracks doing much to move the mind to some very special places. So, without further delay, lets dive right into this wee gem of a record......
Up first comes 'R5V', and this one does much to set the tone of things to come. A cascading synth line leads the way down then down some more, as if it is descending a flight of stars from a parting in the ground beneath us, the energy it exudes calling out to us to make that journey too into the inner depths of the foundations of the world. The first switch up occurs as the structure of the chord arrangement shifts into an ascending segment, with the chords excitingly revolving around our heads as the drums move in to fill up the rhythmic space underneath. The next few bars are a real joy to stick your head into, with the chordal line doing much to give us the run around as the drums provide all the support you would ever need underneath, and before long the chords shift once again into a new sequence, with the melodics doing much to shift the focus in and around the track. The movement into a drumless breakdown has the third key incarnation come back into view, with Struiwigh doing everything she can to maximise the appeal of the track in regards to its keys, with swift movements in momentum from more emotive sections into rave tinged passages of euphoria expertly pulled off. The final descent as the track sees itself out is mesmerising, a sea of soothing calm after such an eclectic mix of chords and tones. Stellar stuff. Up next comes 'WOSP', and this one begins in similar percussive territories to the previous cut. The drums are suitably textured, spacious and full of feeling, with the emotion building as the chords drive right into the backdrop, with the additional percussive elements looking to fill up the spaces that have been left behind by the initial structure, and as time goes by we are subject to further layers of sonic excellence. The melodics take over on top, crafting a series of inter-layered sequences that all bind and wrap themselves around each other, helping to nurture a momentum that takes the breath away with each passing second. The dip back into the drum laden segment again feels so natural and provides a lovely sense of direction, with this sentiment further emphasised by the additional crunchy synths that align themselves within the heart of the cut. The keys return for one final foray, throwing their hat into the ring as we get one final moment to enjoy their blissed out tones for another moment, with the lead synths taking over the entirety of the view in front of us to really hammer home the feels of the cut. Wonderful stuff.
Up next comes the title cut, and this one begins in the hazy mists that persist in the backs of our minds. The woozy liquid like keys skip and flourish on either sides of the pan, with sweeping sounds swelling within the middle of the composition, as light percussive features tap away underneath to provide a textural feel to proceedings, with the overall picture one of ever expanding urban vistas that contain life forms on the brink of waking up. This begins to occur as the arpeggio ascends from deep within the bowels of the track to align itself with the mid ends, its form akin to top angle views of the systems that exist all around us starting to whir into motion, preparing for a day where heavy usage means the rhythmic application has to be just right. The arpeggio continues to tease us from afar, content to let the haunting synths in the foreground and additional percussive features take their time to further entrance us with their fluidity and loose yet very calculated placement. The continued swells keep the blood pumping until we reach a climatic stoppage of sorts, with many elements falling away to allow the arpeggio to exert itself a little bit more within the density, but before we get a chance to glimpse at it the varying tonal elements come right back into the picture, helping to elude to a bigger picture at every corner turned as the drums build and build some more to help see out the track as it moves above to bigger and brighter plains of existence. We feel very blessed to have been touched by this brilliant piece of music. To wrap things up, we have '5D', and this one begins with the bass line plodding away within the far distant backdrop. The placement and volume helps to create a sense of scale to the piece - something which Struiwigh is very, very good at- and as the seconds pass by the presence of the bass becomes more weighty, confident in all that it will inspire to come forward and place its name into the hat, and that is exactly how the next few phases are going to play out. The bass line comes right to the front, exuding its energy to all that it comes into contact with, the percussive element becoming more emboldened as the climatic feels build to a feverish level, our bodies firmly in the grip of the flow, and as our minds prepare for the switch up in energy, the switch up to end all switch up brings us to our knees. After the briefest of empty spaces, we arrive into the most enriching of rhythmic structures you will ever hear, with the bass line moved right to the back in a move that sees the focus drawn firmly to the drums and their swinging nature. The drums quieten down for a moment to allow for the bass to emerge one final time, and like that we drift away into the night, content in having just experienced a little masterclass at condensing so many thoughts into a brilliantly expressive piece of electronica.
There's those particular producers who make the most impeccably bold compositions, treating the craft as something to approach with perspective, knowledge and a sense of daring. For sure Struiwigh ticks all those boxes and this EP is very much a reflection of that sentiment, with each cut showcasing a knack for building the listener up then exploding into a new stanza that is as equally compelling as the last to flow through. The movements between hazy melodics through to rich and full beats is balanced to a T, with the mixture of feels and tones always keeping us on our toes for what might come next. We find ourselves gripped within a sea of ever shifting layers, where percussive elements flow and groove around an invisible pulse that draws so much focus to the spaces between, and the melodics that are expertly concieved and applied to craft a tangible relationship between our emotions and the moods in which the songs are trying to convey. Profound, engaging and deeply moving, its a set of songs we feel will last well into the ages, to be celebrated and enjoyed for years to come. Bravo, Nadia!
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