Italian electronica duo Niagara burst onto my speakers with their previous album “Don’t Take It Personally” and they returned late in 2016 with a more psychedelic and unconventional album “Hyperocean”. Full of weird ambient noises, unusual drum beats and robotic voice overs, it’s an avant garde turn in their style.
It’s a difficult album to initially get into as its far less immediate than their previous works. The title track has an unusual pulsating rhythm and shuffle beat that is robotic and initially unintuitive. However over repeated listens, you appreciate the power that throbs throughout although the big anthem track “Escher Surfers” is both catchy and inventive. It has a crisp and confined grit synth that jams away before a more freeform wave of sound washes over the middle sections.
On the whole though, this album is a dark and broody affair. “Blackpool” is dank and bass heavy with rumbling kickbeats and sub woofed basslines hiding demonic whispers. “Mizu” and “Firefly” veer towards detuned ambient textures whilst “Fogdrops” focuses on a marching warped synths and marching band electro beats that all smash together in a hazy melee. “Roger Water” pushes a more industrial vibe and again focuses on a pulsating sound that permeates the album. It’s different – but on long listens can induce a bit of a headache.
However, I’m being quite harsh. Niagara’s unconventional direction is why I really enjoyed their earlier work in the first place. “Drift” is a perfect example of their style working at their best. There’s just the right amount of creepy robot weird and just enough of a detuned melody to balance the two perfectly. “Solar Valley” magically flips between hip hop beats and electronica orgasms beautifully too. The change up to the euphoric ending is inventive and showcases the best use of the weird stumbling marching beat that continues to repeat during the album itself. “Twin Horizon” pushes things into a more spacious angelicness for some quiet before the abstract 11 minute “Alfa 11” rounds off the album with industrial ambience in all its harshness providing a visceral and uncompromising finale.
I must admit that the album did not play into my expectations and whilst melodically, I feel like it’s a step back for the duo, there’s a sense of complete abandonment here as they experiment and go nuts with lots of different types of ways to push sound design to create a knife-edge emotion. For me personally, it’s a bit hit and miss, but I really appreciate the fact there are people outexp there refusing to sit still in genre boxes and be good little artists. We need them.
Recommended Track : Escher Surfers