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Ex Nihilo

Ex Nihilo, ‘out of nothing’ or ‘from nothing’, is the most curious and compelling album I’ve heard this year. Perhaps better known for his production - most famously on Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth - Martin Bisi recently released his first album in five years on Sheffield via Hamburg imprint Labelship. An incredible mix of art rock, Bisi’s music toys with operatics and cabaret, dark post-punk guitar riffs, blasts of jazz and haunting spoken word. The album as a whole is dominated by a dark ambience which is particularly menacing as the record was written as an exploration of the psyche.

The album certainly starts as it means to go on with a slow build-up of ritualistic voices over a host of guitar, keyboard and drum beats. By the climax of ‘Nihil Holy’, Bisi has set up the dream-like soundscape which underpins the entire album. ‘The Mermaid Queen’ is certainly the centrepiece of the album. Probably the most accessible track due to its catchy chorus, this one is guaranteed to get under your skin. Other great things to watch out for include Dresden Dolls drummer Brian Viglione’s guest appearance on ‘Fine Line’, a fantastically gothy number, and closing track ‘Holy Threesome’, eight minutes of madness concluding in a fade-out soundscape fit to leave you in an existential crisis.

Ex Nihilo is a music critic’s dream. There are so many layers to pick at, break down and cherish individually. It’s impossible to even scratch the surface in 300 words. Bisi will be touring New York all year, but we’ll all just keep our fingers crossed that he comes to the UK soon. I can’t even imagine how powerful this would be live.

by Tasha Franek (she/her)