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cover imageThe debut release from Monika Khot (also a member of Zen Mother) as Nordra is one of those sort of records that just gleefully trounces unnecessarily invented borders between genres without a single care or consideration for what an album should sound like. Khot rarely settles into a single style or even structure for these four songs, but there is method to the madness. A full gamut of alternative pop, techno, and drone metal show up, sometimes within the span of a single song.


The opening moments of "Apologize to Me, Humanity" are at first a bit confounding:a big synthetic 4/4 kick drum beat and rhythmic synth blips are not just conventional, but also something I would have never expected coming from Aaron Turner’s SIGE label.Things soon started making more sense, as the aforementioned elements were mangled and processed into some perversion of conventional electronic music, rife of change and variation that is usually unheard of.At about the halfway point, the song shifts into full on drone metal territory, and by the end even a bit of pleasant singer-songwriter vocals and guitar.Besides the darkness, the sheer sense of experimentation makes sense for the label.

The sound (and intentionally erratic song construction) continues into "Regret 1," where Khot keeps the big beats, but opts for more sweeping, nearly symphonic electronics and synthesizers.Less aggressive and more moody, she creates an excellent dramatic feel via the complex layers of instrumentation.Eventually this gives way to a jerky transition between the synth and beat heavy passages with some more harsh-tinged noisier bits, resulting in a sound that is mesmerizing and never at all predictable.

"New Cycles," on the other hand, comes across more as a deconstruction of industrial rock to its barest essentials.Sputtering noises compliment a stiff sounding drum machine that casts out some rudimentary rock rhythms.Eventually the beat is reduced to just cymbals before guitar and more electronics come in with an oppressive, doom-laden sensibility to them. By the end, Khot leaves behind some of the most pleasant, light guitar moments on the entire record.With shifting, dynamic distortion added to the beats and dark, electronic spaces, it is reminiscent of those early radical dub reworks Godflesh would do but taken to even further, more experimental lengths.

For the concluding "This is Dissent," she keeps the piece in more overtly electronic realms.At first a depressive mass of electronic clicks and beats, the mood is bleak, but there is a lighter melodic undercurrent that is undeniable.Eventually the piece transitions to a more upbeat, less bleak sound, but still idiosyncratic and bizarre, before coming to an abrupt end via cheap beats and varying tempos.While there may not be any jarring shifts in instrumentation, that transition from dour to uptempo keeps it fresh throughout.

Nordra's debut is extremely bizarre and unpredictable in its sound, but never does it come across as sloppy or uneven.Juxtaposing dance music, doom metal, and noise (among a multitude of other styles) could easily end up a messy, unabashed attempt at sounding weird or strange, but the cohesion here is undeniable.For all its oddness, this record just works, sounding like nothing else and not at all attempting to.After writing about (and listening to) unconventional music for so long, I sometimes worry that I have heard it all, so I am always happy to hear something like this that defies any and all expectations I may have had before even giving it a listen.It may be confounding at times, but it is an unquestionably brilliant record through and through.