Turin-based experimental duo Niagara (a.k.a. David Tomat and Gabriele Ottino) make a crooked, quirky, and wholly engrossing form of music that most closely aligns with pop. It’s hard to place the group in any genre confines, which is only ever a good thing, and each album it produces—from the indie-fusion of 2013’s Otto to 2014’s technology-focused Don’t Take It Personally—takes inspiration from conceptual cues and pushes the band’s sound further into the nether regions of the sonic spectrum. The concept for Niagara’s latest effort, Hyperocean, is water—an element that has inspired them from the very start of their careers. “Hyperocean is a pluri-dimensional planet almost completely covered in water. It changes continuously, reacting with whoever is visiting it by switching from one number of dimensions to another," Tomat and Ottino explain.
Fitting of its concept, Hyperocean is a morphing, ever-changing collection of left-field electronics and emotionally-drenched experimental pop in line with contemporaries such as Animal Collective, Lapalux, and Nosaj Thing. Like these aforementioned artists, Niagara doesn’t rely on vocals to be at the forefront of each of its tracks. Instead, they are used as another layer in a coalescing stream of auditory stimulation—sometimes muffled beyond recognition. And like the unpredictable nature of the ocean itself, the album moves from muted opener “Mizu,” which beautifully pairs barely-heard field recordings with heart-pulling strings and guitars, to more volatile and explosive cuts such as “Hyperocean” and “Escher Surfers,” before coming up for air at mid-way ambient cut “Firefly.”
As the album moves along, this ebbing and flowing continues with the visceral shapeshifting of “Fogdrops” and brain-melter “Roger Water,” two cuts that perfectly show the tug of war between Niagara’s pop sensibilities and its more experimental side. The back half of the album definitely favors the experimental side. "Solar Valley," Twin Horizon," and "Alfa 11" all seem to cave in and implode, mutating as they gallop along in a chain reaction of abrasive synths, polyrhythmic drum patterns, corroded guitars, and altered vocal phrases. It's an anarchic end, but an appropriate one for an album and group of this nature. With every release, Niagara pushes its sound further, sometimes to almost breaking point—but it’s at that point that the magic shines through. On Hyperocean, Tomat and Ottino have found just the right balance of songwriting prowess and apocalyptic experimentalism.
Hyperocean will be available on the April 29 via Monotreme Records on digital formats, CD, and as a limited edition of 500 180g vinyl LPs (300 clear and 200 black) that will include a free album CD inside.