Don Niño (in reality a French chap called Nicolas Laureau) has a voice resembling Devendra Banhart, a drum sound evoking David Bowie’s Low, acoustic guitars reminiscent of Love’s Forever Changes, and an album title that evokes the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band’s 1968 ditty ‘Canyons Of Your Mind’.
However, to suggest that this album is as good as Low or Forever Changes, or even more superlatively, as good as some fabled combination of them both, would be fatuous and unfair. Indeed, such resemblances are slight, but evocative – this album is a plenum of sonic strata and mild evocations. Sadly, it’s a tad more earnest than the Bonzos’ offering, though it’s probably also unfair to expect a comedy record.
Instead, the album has to some extent carved out its own space and niche, with its unusual feel and setup. Two years in the making, the patience and effort are manifest, given the variety of layers, subtleties and nuances in the album. Nothing has seemingly been left to chance, with rare combinations of instruments and vocal treatments.
Indeed, there are sounds here that are not easily identifiable, and at times you may wonder quite reasonably how these auditory show-pieces have been formed. Organic instruments fuse with electronic counterparts, the line between them blurred by chicanery. Niño has quite a limited voice, thin and basic, but it’s just another part of the tapestry, and there is so much going on that it doesn’t matter too much – it’s merely another instrument to add variation to the collage.
The album opens with ‘Everything Collapsed All Right’, which features pulsing bass amid hooked synth lines, and vocals that edge towards call and response before the backing fuses back into the lead. Finally, the guitar yields to what resembles a hazed choir of many Don Niños, perched on the edge of sleep and waking.
‘She’s Resisting’ features the aforementioned Berlin-era Bowie percussion, even managing to feature whistling without being crass and maddening, whereas ‘Beats’ is gentler, a plateau of acoustic foundations. ‘Myself By Heart’ opens acoustically with Spanish and Eastern inflections, abetted by lambent synths and snaking bass. The songs are mostly hazy and dreamlike, a journey through Niño’s psychological terrace of the album title, and via bonus mid-point ‘Free Birds’ the instruments continue the cerebral spring clean without vocals, with birdsong lending a bucolic backing.
As a showpiece for versatility and variety, proceedings continue unabated. ‘Cuckoo’ deconstructs to bare bass, before regaining momentum with an understated electric guitar finale. Elsewhere, ‘Fabulous’ annexes more overtly electronic territory, as duelling synths gibber through each speaker. However, there is little by way of stand-out tracks or particularly memorable melodicism – instead, the album succeeds thanks to the slow-burning intensity and variety of the songs. In short, a grower and worth a listen, or frankly several listens, should you wish to gain much from the experience.
Release Date 04/06/2012 (InFineon)