Experimental pop duo Niagara are quick to point out the name of their debut album, Otto, is the Italian word for eight—the numerical basis of Buddhist theology, the magic number in nuclear physics, the core of George Gurdjieff’s Law of Octaves. Hell, if you turn it sideways, it looks like an infinity symbol. And while they’re not wrong, Niagara mistakes multiplicity for depth. Eight is also the number of founding members of the Warsaw Pact, how many years a US President can serve in office, and the number of legs of an octopus. Just because there are a whole lot of important eights doesn’t mean they’re all connected in any significant way.
Musically, Niagara falls into the same trap. There’s a lot going on in Otto—‘60s sunshine pop, noise washes, melancholy folk, breakbeats—but the various influences rarely mesh meaningfully beyond mere juxtaposition. As a result, the album’s eight tracks feel like just that, eight standalone songs, rather than a cohesive LP. Some of those songs a pretty good—standout “Seal” glides along on breezy mandolin and tangles of handclaps, while the catchy “Etacarinae” seesaws between Beatlesesque pop pomp and thunderous shoegaze dreamscape. Like its titular numeral, Otto is impressively multifaceted but, as a result, sounds like the disjointed work of, well, eight very different Niagaras, or maybe just one still searching for the right fit.
// Notes from the Road
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