In the Beat of the Night
Nixxon’s anticipated release, For No Good Reason, finally sees the light of day. The one-time associate of the Weeknd, who traded rhymes with Mr. Abel Tesfaye once upon a time ago in Toronto, returns with the follow-up to his 2013 release 1990. The singer’s five-track EP is something of a revelation. The purple smoke of his previous material disperses somewhat to reveal just a few sunlit rays of a flushed and empyreal brand of pop. Still plying the molasses-thick consistency of his beats, Nixxon works a formidable groove of stately grandeur; even in the minimal setups, there is a promethean projection in the singer’s sound. Opening track “Reason” softly palpitates, a hook of keyboard licks patterned like the effects of strobe light. It stands as the most vibrant piece of music the artist has recorded to date. On “Beast”, the EP’s single which debuted last year and has been rerecorded here, the singer ploughs the deeper darkness he is known for courting; the rumbles of thunderous bass explode through a pitch-black groove of terror and dread.
It is with a certain atmosphere observed in horror films by which the images of Nixxon’s eidetic lyrics are often impelled. Love and fear are paralleled in the obsessed-stalker narrative of “The Woods”. Over a languid beat recalling Tricky’s moody dubtronic shuffles, the singer extends a chilling query: “If we were both stranded in the woods, would you trust me…?” The wan and feverish hip-hop here is drenched with the sweat of both sex and fright.
A swaggering tussle with fatalism produces a funereal grind on “Bandz”, the slow-rising panic of destitution holding fast the nightly dramas of the singer’s bar-hopping exploits. In the dimming twilight of organ swells, a ghostly electronic march proceeds into the suffocating nightmares of hopelessly disenfranchised youth. “My wallet got caught and they swiped and they swiped ‘til I got nothing more…you know that I’m high and I’m broke, broke as a door,” Nixxon sings. Like a slow diffusion of Demerol, there is a numbing of cognition and the singer’s promise of keeping “bands on the low” seems delivered from the nocturnal recesses of sleep.
At times, Nixxon offers the upside to the Weeknd’s manicured gloom, as on the lustrous slow-jam of “Fall”. Launching a daydream’s worth of desire into the vaults of the sky, he streaks the air with the cirrus of anxiety and lust. Here, what sounds to be the nervous jitters of eminence is also a breathless confessional into the bare hollow of a woman’s back. Even with an emphatically-employed auto-tune sequencer, there is the corporeal rub of fleshly craving.
Nixxon’s personal issues (declared here as poverty, difficult career starts and broken relationships) are at once the affairs he desperately wishes to elude and the very substance of which his work is made. In this dreamlike mess of anxieties, escape seems futile; primal urges are formed by design and even the most agonizing moments are realized through a somewhat hedonistic glow. It’s a peculiar pleasure born out of crisis; Nixxon’s moments of musical triumph seem to come from the surreal depths of despair. Even the echoing screams heard throughout the album cannot shatter the imprisonment of the strange dream he has found himself in…
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