Being only twenty-four odd minutes long and comprised of sixteen short interludes and title-less tracks makes this record a difficult one to pick apart. The press release drops JS Bach somewhat pretentiously, or at least recommends this for “fans of” JS Bach (though I can’t really recall the last time I met a bona fide “fan”), but the classical, or classic feeling remains clear. Never has Norway witnessed a band so hellbent on pushing you between two worlds of the extreme, black shadowy roots of metal and the total crack-up of modernization via pure electronic mediation.
In that classical sense it certainly reads as a unified piece with progressive moments/movements rather than an experiment in cut-and-paste sampling. Whether or not the result is something like an epic journey through the castles of Dragon Quest, it is a sound that could be historically situated in Japan’s economic recession of the 90’s, upheavals in art and literature characterized by an influential eerie, apocalyptic, anonymous and apolitical quality– I’m thinking everything from noise-artist Merzbow, to writer Ryu Murakami, to director Takeshi Miike. It’s no wonder then, the record’s similarities to contemporary Japanese bands, the first time I saw Next Life’s Hai Nguyen Dinh perform at Spasibar it reminded me of a more serious version of the gameboy wizard DJ Scotch Egg, and the spastic/chaotic qualities of Melt Banana, as well as that sludgey, epic riffing we all love of Zeni Geva. And maybe that’s why the record sounds somehow current, like it’s something we all relate to- divine detachment in an over-sensory, technology-driven world.
The album kicks-off with a low-pounding plummet into their version of a lost age, which is hardly organic as it is industrial, quickly making its way through fantastical territory, fleeting moments of grandiose organ-like reprises over beats at Aphex Twin-speed and groovey rock moments akin to Amp Rep’s Hammerhead. Halfway through the record, and 3/4 the way again, we hear a krafty melodic keyboard interlude, like some reminder of the humane and naive… but each time follows a build-up of earnest, hard-hitting rock akin to Ministry, with an intense blast beat climax and head-nodding riffs. It almost seems possible to “begin” the record at any point, and loop it through until your original point of entry– so mechanical and crammed-packed the ebb and flow that you definitely feel you’re getting a whole lotta rosie for only twenty-four minutes.
And so rare a status Next Life have as originators of their own sound, that I would highly recommend grabbing this record at Tiger or from Fysisk Format before the next teenage simulacrum decides to repackage it as their own. ’Cos then you could do the whole “been there, done that” routine, and so on and so forth, right?