Nightlands - Forget the Mantra - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Nightlands - Forget the Mantra

by Steve Reynolds Rating:9 Release Date:2010-11-09

Nightlands is the pseudonymous bedroom-based side project of War on Drugs assist Dave Hartley. Stepping away from his day job sound, Nightlands consists of lightly toned synths, dreamy reverb vocals and harmonies drawn together and neatly packed into a smattering of gorgeous strings, chimes and drum machines. Forget the Mantra immediately invites comparisons to the eclectic quartet Animal Collective alongside the bareness of Bright Eyes at his acoustic Wide Awake… best. This is ever so prominent in the album's title track with its hypnotic synth pummelling against a barrage of beautifully arranged horns. Hartley's experimental sound has a distinct focus on psychedelic space jams, which elongate and prod the listener into persisting with his wall of avant garde ('300 Clouds').

The use of several different instruments is a tribute to Hartley's wish to offer more than just the standard solo artist set-up. What strikes you about the album is that it could have been a real chore to put together but the use of a variety of instruments project a view that recording was anything but. 'God What I Have', featuring the harmonies of The Fleet Foxes on sleeping pills being in cahoots with the finest vocal out of an African choir, is a work of beauty against chugging acoustic guitar. It works so well despite how simple it is. It's not overcooked, it's not earnest, just constructed in a way that doesn't fail to tug at the heartstrings. 'Glass Vacuum' is a soaring piece of work, from the opening chimes and hypnotic guitar loop wrapped around Hartley's echo vocal to the nagging tubular bells which drag the whole shebang into a maelstrom of encapsulating music. 'A Walk in Cheong 1969' is a Dictaphone message from Hartley. It's so fractured and grainy it juxtaposes itself against a conglomerate of strings, crashes, bangs and backward played records. It's quite haunting but remains rather charming at the same time.

The second part of the album is much more drawn out and melancholy, almost sobering and glum, a mood personified by another spoken word track, 'WFMS, 1993'. However, because it's more downbeat it demonstrates Hartley's ability to mangle and twist his bedroom antics into an accomplished album. The haunting 'Longways…' is a prostrate Brian Wilson hanging out with the Beta Band, but the woodpecker sounding beats and carefully plucked strings are part of myriad instruments that aren't just depicted here but are ubiquitous throughout the album. Overall, this is a great piece of work, a brilliant send off for 2010 and one that should be destined for your top 10.

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