Album Review: Nice Nice – Extra Wow (2010 LP)


Experimental bands can often be, to put
it bluntly, a pretty boring spectacle to watch. But when you hear
about the jaw-dropping, improvisational live shows that Nice Nice
are renowned for, it’s not hard to believe that they
could be an exception to that rule.

Guitarist Jason Buehler and
percussionist Mark Shirazi are self-described ‘musical omnivores’:
postmodernist experimental musicians in every sense of the word.
Their new album is a startling piece of work – comprised of
constant and shifting layers of tones, textures and sounds, their
debut long player is an expansive journey, one which treads in so
many different sonic territories. The pair claim to have tried
almost every form of music throughout their year career – that at
times its hard to keep up.

The modestly named Extra Wow is Nice
Nice’s first release on Warp Records, the British label responsible
for bringing us some of music’s most left-field artists like Aphex
Twin and Battles. The indefinable and eclectic Portland duo fit
snugly onto the Warp roster… well, by not fitting in anywhere.

This indefinable quality means that
this album is not an easy one to embrace. There are no clear radio
singles and no song sounds like any other – rather, each track is
merely one part of an expansively rich and dynamic body of work, embracing everything from samples and electronica blips, to psychedelia
and experimental rock. Pay close enough attention you’ll be rewarded
with a fascinatingly rich, and at times uplifting, sonic trip. And
there’s plenty of fantastical moments along the way, from the dirgy
and at times chaotic, teetering-on-the-edge, caustic rock of leading
single ‘One Hit’; the shimmering ‘A Way We Glow’, where chimes,
ethereal tones and swirling oriental melodies loop over each other
over a driving pulse; and the propulsive ‘On and On’, one of the
album’s most intense and tribal tracks that crescendos into a noisy

One of the band’s most accessible
tracks and the only possible contender for a single, ‘See Way’, is
flanked by some tracks that help put the ‘extra’ in Extra Wow: ‘Big
Bounce’ is a dubby, summery celebration song that echoes
ever-so-faintly of the Beach Boys, while the Sonic Youth-esque ‘A
Vibration’ is an entirely different piece altogether; a dark
indie-rock anthem overrun by sweeping arpeggiated loops and acid
tones. Its a swirling and cacophonic melting pot of rhythms and
sounds, yet Nice Nice manage to hold it all together with ease. Extra
is definitely a challenging album, but those who have the
patience to engage with it will certainly enjoy the trip.

Review score: 6.5/10