For the first 15-minutes or so, “Pyramids with Nadja” – a collaboration between two mammoth names in the whole “heavy shoegaze” movement – sounds as you might expect it to. It’s the infinitely expansive sound of the universe being swallowed whole. The melodies crackle out of Nadja’s trademark distortion as the whole piece riles itself up into a hurricane, numbing your senses and only really sinking in once it dies down, leaving the last of the tinnitus-induced ring to drip out of your ears. And then, out of absolutely nowhere, everything changes.
Chris Simpson from the band Mineral enters with a tragic, ballad-esque vocal line, close enough to breath down your neck and loud enough to knock you backwards. “Bake me a funeral cake” he wails, as piano chords gently carry his broken words forward and ghoulish drones creep closer in. I’ll be honest – the first time it happened, I wasn’t sure what to think. I felt like being violently shaken out of a beautifully hypnotic dream. Yet on the second and third listen, the presence something so vulnerable and human coming from two artists who usually hide behind vast slabs of escapism began to sound absolutely beautiful.
And the watery piano lines continue through to the third track, “Sound Of Ice and Grass”, playing mournful melodies along to haunted vocal cries. Again, it oozes with a bare-bones fragility which is absent from the individual efforts of both artists. Perhaps this has something to do with the number of other collaborators present here – including members of Cocteau Twins, Der Blutharsch and the aforementioned Mineral – who may have encouraged the bands to delve into territory they may usually steer clear from.
It isn’t long before a fuzzy, downtuned chord rumbles through the soundscape, and both bands sink back into their respective comfort zones. The rapid-fire drum machine of the Pyramids trademark starts to creep in behind the swirl of ambience, which starts to carry more explicit hints of Nadja’s own output. And although their sounds merge together quite naturally, the end result isn’t quite as interesting as the stint of surreal beauty that occupies the middle of this release.
Overall, it’s an album which beautifully demonstrates the capacity collaborations have for being more than just forcing two sounds together (despite resorting to this themselves on the odd occasion). It’s a solid effort, and one which does more than enough to captivate you throughout and keep artist reputations very much intact.