Nikulydin :: 07.13.04 :: Phoenix Landing :: Boston, MA
Having very little exposure to their sound, I was intrigued by another chance to hear Nikulydin, a Boston-based live electronic band, on July 13 at Phoenix Landing in Cambridge. I knew very little about the band first-hand, aside from the fact that Boston psy-trance stalwart Dino had played an opening set for them one night, and people called their sound "very trancey and very psychedelic."
Going on just that, I pushed away from dinner in Chinatown, turned off the MLB All-star game on the radio, and headed to Cambridge.
First off, let me just say this: The Phoenix Landing is a vastly improved tavern, bordering on upscale. A flatscreen TV graces the eating area (never missed one of Ortiz's swings!) and new ambient lighting fixtures give the place a touch of class, artistry, and warmth. I spent some time drinking, talking with friends, and listening to Tim Ryan play an outstandingly deep and progressive house set, and eventually Nikulydin took the stage.
Nikulydin has much in common (in both instrumentation and sound) with their more renowned musical brethren Sound Tribe Sector 9. The band consists of eight members (six musicians, one sound engineer, one visuals expert), all of whom play a critical role in the overall Nikulydin experience. There's a live drummer playing a full electronic drum kit, a second drummer playing a Roland hand-pad, two synth players (one actually playing a Nord Lead and a Triton simultaneously), a bassist, and a guitarist (who was simultaneously operating a laptop with an attached Oxygen keyboard for a midi device). Offstage, a sound engineer operates a mixing board controlling levels and EQs for all the instruments, and a VJ provides a computer-generated display of projections on the wall behind the band. The artistic talent and ingenuity in the room that night was indeed second to none.
Steve Asaro of Nikulydin
When they began to play, my expectations were immediately shattered and I had a difficult time classifying their sound. This immediate response was both good and bad. Good, because it meant their music is original and not like much I had heard before. Bad, because (being dubbed a "psy-snob" by many) I was going to have to write this review totally off-the-cuff.
The first track or two was an introduction. High-end sweeps, filtered sweeps, and sounds of "what's to come" ruled. Immediately after a quick mic-set by the bassist, Nikulydin broke out into about 20 minutes of music I would compare most closely to deep house--groove oriented, a little funky, full of simple melodies and upbeat stabs. These 20 minutes were a perfect exit from Tim Ryan's DJ set into Nikulydin.
The funk increased with more complex drum patterns and slightly more melodic synth lines as the next few tracks featured a 1970s sitcom feel. There were definitive disco roots and I expected to see Jack Tripper come strolling into the club to order a drink. Or maybe the Love Boat cast would come cruising through. Either way I was digging it.
As their hour-long set began to slip away, Nikulydin ended with a mix that made me think, "So this is what they mean by 'trance!'" The drum mix was raised slightly, the 4/4 beat was stronger than it had been all night, and the synth players began to break out into overpowering feel-good Ibiza melodies that brought me back to where trance was in the mid-1990s. It was hands-in-the-air, epic trance that would have had Paul Van Dyke on the floor and asking for a copy of the track for his next gig. For the first time, those remaining on the dance floor were able to punch the sky, look up and smile, and keep a distinct rhythm in their step... And at that, the set ended.
Even with just the one, fleeting peak moment, it was a great show. The Phoenix is the bomb and the band is very talented--both musically and visually. I can only think that Nikulydin has a long and prosperous performance career ahead of them.
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