Monday, July 16, 2012

Naam - 'The Ballad of the Starchild' EP

New York’s Naam occupy an odd space influenced by spaced-out, seventies kraut-rock, classic rock, and a minute suggestion of doom metal. Their latest, ‘The Ballad of the Starchild’ EP, follows their 2009 self-titled debut and an unexpected two-song covers EP that put a psychedelic twist on Nirvana’s “Drain You” and “Pennyroyal Tea”. The band’s debut was at times a nose-dive plummet into unhinged space-rock territory. ‘The Ballad of the Starchild’ EP partially reels in the kraut-rock and doom influences and largely avoids the raucous bombast of the debut in favor of a more subdued approach. It’s more of a chill-out album opposed to a blotter freak-out.

Somber acoustic fingerpicking followed by gentle lap steel guitar open the EP’s initial track, “Sentry of Skies”. The song slowly builds and the lap steel guitar is instrumental to achieving a cathartic release during the song’s crescendo. “Sentry of Skies” has a subtle beauty that is unmatched by the remainder of the songs of the EP. “Lands Unknown” is a dark meditation that relies heavily on moody repetition while introducing keyboards and synths into the mix for texture. The heavily Eastern influenced “History’s Son” is an unnecessary instrumental interlude probably intended to add depth and atmosphere to the EP. Eastern influences such as sitar and tambura have been overused in psychedelic music to the point of being wearisome and it is no different here. At almost half the length of the EP, the eleven minute long “The Starchild” is intended to be the focal point and it works. The song floats aloft a wave of organ and catchy guitar riffs. “The Starchild” could easily have fit in with the tracks of Naam’s debut, and on this EP it is a welcome return to form. The appropriately titled “Exit Theme” closes out the album and is comprised exclusively of synthesizer and keyboard. “Exit Theme” may have possibly succeeded as an effective way to end a longer work, but with an EP barely exceeding the twenty-five minute mark it comes across as unessential filler.

Many bands use the EP format as an avenue to release material that may be a departure from their established sound and Naam should be applauded for trying something different even if it doesn’t completely work. At five songs deep with only two standout tracks it’s difficult to see how this EP could really help the band garner new fans. Their excellent, self-titled debut is probably a better leaping off point for those unfamiliar with the band’s brand of psychedelic rock. Fans looking for anything influenced by seventies kraut-rock bands like Ash Ra Tempel or Amon Düül II or bands similar to contemporary acts like Black Mountain, Kadavar, or The Black Angels could do worse.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Doommantia)

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