Brian Foote, Honey Owens, and Paul Dickow’s persistent evolution is unstoppable. Infinity Padlock documents another stage in Nudge’s unending transformation; this time around the group flirts with rock ‘n’ roll balladry and noise jams quite unlike anything else in their discography.
This EP’s artwork is an immediate sign that Nudge still refuse to sit still. The images that adorned Cached and Elaborate Devices for Filtering Crisis were completely abstract; they’re the kind of images that typify the visual aesthetic attached to the IDM and freeform electronic-dance genres. The cover for Infinity Padlock is more visceral and direct. It provides a familiar shape and form that is made disturbing by its deformity and bloody state. The stripped and mutilated half-angel, half-bird that adorns the cover doesn’t quite represent the music inside in terms of intensity, but it does hint at the musical hybrid on the record. The band doesn’t produce dance music, nor IDM, and they’re not exactly a rock band, either. As always, Nudge blend the electronic and the acoustic/organic seamlessly, producing a hybrid sound that no other group can claim as their own. Infinity Padlock sees the organic winning out, however. This EP is replete with stripped guitars and direct vocals, both of which feel like lead instruments from start to finish.
“War Song” begins with a strummed guitar washed out by reverb and echo; the melody is simple and pretty and almost completely untouched by any electronic processing. A simple tabla-rhythm follows the guitars and then Honey Owens begins to sing and the song slowly builds in complexity. Keyboards, rhythmic edits, and vocal additions all swim together in jelly-like fashion. Imagine what a group of jellyfish might look like swimming in slow motion and you might get a sense of how relaxed and gentle this song feels. It’s a mass of throbbing gelatin that wobbles to and fro until “Angel Decoy” abruptly interrupts its gentle motion. Here, Brian Foote sings over a strummed guitar. The tune is simple and direct, scored by only the slightest distortion. Over a period of ten minutes, the group allows the song to dissolve into a wash of interweaving noise and chaos. Keyboards enter the fray triumphantly and, for a time, paint the song with a lovely melody that breaks down and eventually succumbs to near complete pandemonium.
There are few drum machines, almost no clicking or stuttering rhythms, and very few computerized melodies anywhere on Infinity Padlock. The songs rely on simple directness and all the production on the record either tends towards psychedelia or total restraint. “Sickth” is the only song that reminds me of anything from Nudge’s past and only because it sounds like it could’ve been produced entirely on a laptop. Honey’s voice is front and center, however, and takes precedence over the bubbly sound effects and drifting synthetic noises that populate the song. “Time Delay Twin” closes the EP on a pretty radical note: with an accordion drone fluctuating in the foreground, an electric and acoustic guitar are strummed away while Foote sings a sad song softly in the background. Even with the focus on guitars and vocals in the previous three songs, I couldn’t have imagined the EP ending this way. It’s a bittersweet love song that completely breaks from Nudge’s style and casts the band in a completely different light. It’s a pleasant surprise to hear the band approach music this way, but it takes some getting used to; the transformation seems so thorough to me that I’m surprised the name Nudge is on the cover at all. Seeing the group live at Brainwaves this year took me by surprise, too. It’ll be interesting to see what road they travel down as the entire group seems capable of tackling anything to which they put their mind.