Nadja – Thaumogenesis 2LP+CD – Important, 2010  – $26 (Newbury St. Newbury Comics, 5/7)
Back in 2007 and 2008 I got sucked into the world of Toronto-based ambient/slow-core/shoegaze/drone/metal (sorry, “metalgaze” makes me cringe and all of these tags fit) duo Nadja, starting with two of their full-lengths, Thaumogenesis and Radiance of Shadows. The latter ended up making my top 20 of 2007, but I was soon inundated with other Nadja releases. With fifteen full-lengths since the group’s inception in 2003 (four of which have been re-recorded and re-released), their level of output shames even the otherwise prolific Jesu, even without mentioning all of their splits/EPs/solo releases. (Okay I’ll mention one: Fantasma Parastasie, Aidan Baker’s collaboration with Tim Hecker, is worth checking out.) The secondary problem with this immense discography is that unlike Guided by Voices, Nadja’s releases are less song-oriented and more based on variations on an aesthetic. Do I enjoy their slow-crawl doom-gaze? Sure. Do I need to hear every permutation of it? Not really. Sensing my burnout with stylistic cousin Jesu’s frantic release schedule and diminishing returns, I decided to pick up just a few key Nadja releases, only to encounter a $38 price tag on the LP of Radiance of Shadows. This site (and this meme in particular) is all about putting your money where your mouth is, but even I have limits.
Thankfully Important Records made my decision a little easier by repressing Thaumogenesis on 2LP with bonuses like a James Plotkin remix, a bundled live CD, and gatefold artwork from Seldon Hunt. The main question was how “Thaumogenesis,” the 61:43 long track that comprises the album, would fit onto three sides of vinyl. Surprisingly well, I must say. The split points are noticeable but not distracting, making it seem like three movements of a larger piece rather than a work shoehorned into an ill-fitting format. I even prefer the split points for two reasons: first, I’m more likely to put on 20 minutes of Nadja than commit to a full hour; second, it’s much easier to make mental notes of my favorite moments, many of which appear on side B.
Perhaps I haven’t spent enough time discussing the album itself, which is a shame. Thaumogenesis demonstrates Nadja’s ability to bridge the gaps between all of those disparate genre/style tags I mentioned earlier. It drifts formlessly like the best ambient groups, it has the tonal resonance of shoegaze, its nearly non-existent tempo makes slow-core masters Codeine seem peppy, its reluctance to change chords evokes drone, and the palpable threat and occasional use of violence is definitely metal (the shuddering slabs of distorted guitar closing out side B are downright malicious). I recalled the album being heavier than it actually is, but there’s something devastating in the total effect of these enormous waves of guitar. I did not recall it being slower, but even played at 45 rpm, which I did on a lark, it barely puts one foot in front of the other. I don’t know if I’d ever fully recognized the decaying beauty in the synths glistening behind those mammoth guitar chords. Whether I need to collect all of Nadja’s permutations on this sound is still debatable, but Thaumogenesis reminds me how utterly absorbing this aesthetic can be.