Music

NAAM: Vow

Brooklyn space-rock band NAAM maintains a commitment to the exploratory ethos of hallucinogenic rock 'n' roll on its latest album, Vow.


NAAM

Vow

Label: Tee Pee
US Release Date: 2013-06-03
UK Release Date: 2013-06-03
Amazon
iTunes

Psychedelic rocker NAAM released its self-titled debut back in 2009, and given trance-inducing tracks like the 16-whirling-dervish-minute "Kingdom", fans of heavy and hazy rock quickly took note. NAAM soon set off on tour, with a coveted slot at Roadburn Festival in 2011 included, but since then it's been slim pickings from the band. NAAM has subsequently released a 7-inch of Nirvana covers, and The Ballad of the Starchild EP, which has an accompanying acid-dripping astronomical/Egyptological video for "The Starchild" that’s well worth a visit. However, the kinds of lysergic guitar rock that NAAM dispenses works best when the full-length dose is ingested, and accordingly, the band's new album, Vow, is set to be a welcome return for fans of macrocosmic jaunts -- even if the album's focus is more microcosmic this time round.

At 37 minutes, Vow is only 11 minutes longer than The Ballad of the Starchild EP, and with lengthy tracks being de rigueur delights in the psychedelic sphere, NAAM fans might, understandably, be feeling a little nervous about Vow's running time. There are no tracks stretching out to time-warping length here, but NAAM does traverse plenty of new mind-melting ground. The band makes extensive use of electronics, vocal harmonies, and velvety, buzzing melodies, and while the aforementioned focus is more inward than galaxy gazing, the album's meditations are still swathed in cosmic rock and still highly effective in stimulating a psychoactive mood.

NAAM has been working hard on finding the perfect psychedelic equation since it was formed as a powerhouse trio in Brooklyn in 2009 by vocalist/guitarist Ryan Lugar, bassist John Bundy, and drummer Eli Pizzuto. (John "Fingers" Weingarten joined in 2012 to provide the electronics, organ, and synthesizers.) Like the work of many of its Tee Pee Records labelmates, NAAM's sound draws heavily from the late '60s and early '70s, with projectile riffs launching into the void and keyboard rocket-trails. Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, Pink Floyd, and a little MC5 are reference points -- along with a strong kosmische drawl too -- and like similar purveyors of proggy psych and high-octane space rock (such as Mugstar, Ancestors, or Earthless), NAAM shows a commitment to the exploratory ethos of hallucinogenic rock 'n' roll.

Vow's 12 tracks are certainly proof of the NAAM's dedication to that endeavor. The band's psych and stomp has been mixed with a droning glaze since day one, and in that sense, the heavier hypnotic rock on Vow continues the band's original tack. Lugar's guitar floats atop molten meanders and then propels itself into cannabinoid-laced overdriven reels and rolls on "Vow". "Of the Hour", and "Pardoned Pleasure" -- all fueled by swirling electronics and riffing and a driving Krautrock propulsion, with echoing, multilayered vocals weaving their way through.

Of course, that's space rock 101, something NAAM does exceptionally well. But what's new on Vow is a stronger injection of soul. The organ-rich blues of "Midnight Glow" gets the metaphysical cauldron boiling, channeling raga rock and flashes of Jethro Tull (and funk filtered through a grease trap), while the mystical and mellow electro-folk of "Laid to Rest" offers a couple of minutes of bucolic transcendence. Bundy's bass writhes around in jazzier territory when NAAM sets its sights on looser promenades, and Pizzuto covers a lot of ground too -- the brief tribal thump of "In & Thru" leading into the percussion driven "Pardoned Pleasure".

Lugar's vocals, often harmonically bundled with Bundy's, gruffly croon through much of Vow, adding to what is a wonderfully mesmeric vibe. However, Weingarten's role is the standout. His keyboards and effects set the baseline freakout tenor on many tracks, and he adds a slinky synth groove to the magnificently heady jam of "Beyond". His Suspiria atmospherics on "Brightest Sight" and "Silent Call" make for a haunting pieces of keyboard esotericism, and its those tracks, and the gentle piano drift of "Adagio", that redefine the notion that NAAM is a heavy rocker interested in mass alone. Certainly, "Skyscraper", which shimmers with sinsemilla-shoegaze and blissfully pans and phases its way to firmamental heights, is a fine example of the intoxicating adventurism found on many of Vow's tracks. It reveals a band keen on exploring all corners of the psychedelic spectrum, unafraid to mix dark and light pleasures, plunge into the depths of fuzz and fire, or simply soar.

Whether Vow's experimentalism will satisfy fans looking for the heavy punch of NAAM's debut is obviously up in the air, but the album definitely takes the listener on an imaginative journey, and the widening of Namm's musical parameters sets the band on a new astral plane. Certainly, accompanying the band on step two of its sonic pilgrimage offers abundant mind-expanding promise, and the mixing of futuristic and vintage jams leaves the door wide open for both heavy and heavenly pursuits in the future. While Vow doesn’t explicitly signal whether NAAM will be following the rabbit down the hole or dispensing anti-matter starbursts next time around, the combination of both here makes it an expedition well worth joining.

7

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image