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Experimental rockers Nester have been around since 2008. The quintet took their time to record, releasing this debut early in 2014 while performing regularly as well as picking up a few MAMA nominations along the way. The next release may not be too far off as word has it they are readying for recording sessions.
Nester harbors an intense creative streak that is sometimes cloaked in understatement. The band plays a dynamic brand of post-rock a la Radiohead, with expansive synths and dramatic guitar lines. Meghan Hamilton sings in a mesmerizing alto and lyrics are Nester’s stock-in-trade. Poetic streams of consciousness invoke disillusionment and a curious beauty in decay and anguish. There’s an undercurrent of anxiety and escapism that might be best expressed in “Borderlands”: “I don’t want to go out / I just want to stay in / It is what I do best / and it’s all of my time.” Or perhaps these stanzas from “In the Heliosphere”: “Oh, little girl where’s your hiding place? / Are you lost in this world planning out your escape? / Are there moons in your eyes where you thought you would see / beautiful pastures and lots of green? There were times in the night when you laid awake / When you thought to yourself about solarscapes / And you’d take shelter there where you know you’d be safe / Beautiful pastures and lots of space / Beautiful pastures and lots, lots of space.”
Standard verse/chorus structures are jettisoned for musical dreamscapes. The rhythm section (Carl Swanson on drums and percussion and Matt Voll on bass) use plenty of syncopation, often creating polyrhythms while Ryan Pritchard’s synths both ground the songs in melody lines and add atmosphere. “Kaleidoscope” is a great example of this, the band rising and falling, like they breathe music from every pore, finally reaching a beautifully melded finale. “We Sink Ships” and “Battles” rely on a fiercely steady beat with Hamilton’s vocals recalling Suzanne Vega. The latter is one of the album’s more powerful tracks. Hamilton also plays rhythm guitar while lead guitarist Riki Sjachrani circles the proceedings with repeating, staccato lines. The two play intertwining guitar parts to great effect. “The Alchemist” is another song in a similar rhythmic groove as the album seems to gain strength as it proceeds. Sjachrani really stretches out here on lead guitar. “I Am the Juggernaut” boasts one of the album’s best riffs, at once full of tension while Hamilton’s breathy vocal provides release. “Borderlands” has what might be the strongest melodic refrains. “Patchwork & Plaid” is another captivating composition. Here Hamilton uses harmony vocals, multi-tracking her voice, a technique which adds further punch. Hopefully they will delve further into those regions.
The album may have strong elements of dreaminess but this is meant to be played loud. Nester sits comfortably among two of Madison’s most impressive bands of late: PHOX and Oh My Love. All three of these acts are redefining the Madison sound and pushing the creative envelope. Nester has the potential to make some astounding recordings and with Gata Galactica they are well on their way. Keep your eye out for this band and the follow-up to this intriguing record.