Monika Khot has been exploring the realm of experimental music both as one half of the avant noise/prog duo Zen Mother, but also with her solo project Nordra. Just last year, Khot released her self-titled record through SIGE, displaying her adventurous ethic towards electronic music. Now SIGE turns back the clock and presents Nordra's first work in Pylon II, originally released in 2016 and featuring an original score for an immersive performance, choreographed by Coleman Pester for the 9e2 festival.
As Pylon II is not far removed chronologically from Nordra, Khot displays many of the qualities that were so successful in her latest album. The unconventional instrumentation, in the use of an electric guitar and trombone alongside the processed vocals, infect the electronic music core. In that manner the mechanical heartbeat of the progression is met with a more humane touch, resulting in a record that manages to be both cerebral and soulful. This duality is further highlighted in the contradiction of the post-industrial concepts of Nordra alongside the musique concrete and ambient music touches.
The introduction of the record establishes the connection of Nordra with electronic music. Without hiding her techno sensibilities, in the likes of “Vogue,” Khot produces some intoxicating rhythms featuring a circular progression motif. In embracing that element the record gains a smooth characteristic when it comes to its evolution, and it is a theme that is revisited throughout Pylon II. “Nordra Ships” is an example where this techno spirit is brought back to the surface, with the track acting as an introduction to the more extravagant investigations of Khot. The industrial-esque renditions that follow deviate from the cold, repetitive manifestation of the genre, and instead are able to conjure a more atmospheric essence that verges on the spiritual dimension. It is a concept that Khot follows even further, performing a deconstruction of electronic music with “Destruction Aftermath,” as the unconventional progression with the percussive off-beat anchor disappear under a haze of noisy synths.
This deviation from the norm acts as the prime pathway into futher abstract ideas. These can be sparsely placed on the record, as is the case with the noise aspect of Nordra. Without even going into a full-blown noise mayhem, Khot implements harsh synths in order to create a hostile sonic environment. The opening track sees this implementation, working against the smooth, repetitive progression to a fantastic effect. Similarly, the use of vocals and samples through a processed lens adds to the depth of this distorted investigation, with the excruciating quality of the vocals in “Nordra Ships” leading to a surprisingly serene scenery.
However, there are also times when instead of the techno structure or the post-industrial motifs, the music is built upon much less solid ground. The introduction of musique concrete to this record is impressive, with Khot performing an excellent manipulation of the sonic artifacts in order to plunge the track into a surreal ambiance. “The Mass” is an example of that modus operandi, as the track arrives with a much darker sense. Through this minimalistic origin the music can grow to become impressive and imposing, as is the case with “Reflections,” or project a feeling of impending doom as in “Control.” And despite the serious facade that these experimentations take, there is also a sardonic twist within Pylon II, as Khot builds a moment of pure avantgarde bliss through the use of a commercial sample for the main theme of “The Commercial.”
It is the polymorphic quality of Nordra that make the music so enticing. That was the case with the self-titled record, but Pylon II is a deeper dive. The longest track of the album, closer “Human,” encapsulates the multitude of manifestations and aspects of the project in the most vivid way. The noise motifs and the erratic renditions paint the progression in bright colors, while the ethereal vocals add to the spiritual quality with their presence through this veil of noise. The navigation through these different modes is impressive and it is the balance that Khot is able to achieve that remains astounding.
8.0 / 10
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