Divisions, the latest album from NYC-based producer indie music veteran Charlie Nieland, was released this past March but it is an encounter we know you will not and should not miss. It is a collection of some of the most compelling, tempting and involving indie rock/pop songs likely to be heard this year, a release which teases and rewards with just a little more depth and imagination by the listen.
With Nieland’s musical history seeing him having written and produced material with the likes of Debbie Harry, Rufus Wainwright, Dead Leaf Echo, Blondie and Scissor Sister as well as creating some fine film and TV scores and currently making up one half of Lusterlit with Susan Hwang, there is no doubt that experiences inspiring his sound have been extensive. In regard to his latest release, Nieland has also revealed that “As the pandemic took hold, so did my plan to produce Divisions and I began a listening expedition through my inspirations, from The Beatles to Yes, Cocteau Twins to Interpol, Peter Gabriel to Blur, U2 and The Flaming Lips.” Listening to the album you could not say any track has a richness or character relating to particular artists within that journey but certainly you can sense the influence it has on the imagination and diversity of sound within the album.
With drummers Brian Geltner and Billy Loose splitting rhythmic prowess across the release and Susan Hwang providing rich tempting vocally within numerous tracks and once on drums alongside the multi-instrumental dexterity of Nieland, Divisions barely loses a breath in potent temptation starting with opener Always on Fire. Instantly, melodic wires entangle the senses, their ethic hue soon inciting a similarly alluring guitar and bass stroll which is soon joined by Nieland’s familiar potent tones. As so many moments within the album the song teases ears and imagination, never feeding expectations and refreshing attention by the swing and moves it uncages. There is also a great R.E.M. essence to the song at times which only escalates its quickly proving irresistible persuasion.
The album’s title track follows; its body a prowling incitement with post punk lures and psych rock nuances within a climate of drama and tension. As the release itself, it is a song which just grows by the listen, every time within its almost tenebrific presence revealing new intimation loaded seeds for the imagination to weave with.
The outstanding Exploding provides our first unshakeable if often challenged favourite moment within the release. The song is pure indie pop captivation within which instinctive pleasure was only fed by the delicious XTC-esque hook and hue it bears; the result swift infatuation before The Falling Man absorbed ears in its own mesmeric yet turbulent theatre of sound and suggestion. It too proved an addiction only reinforced by the compelling stringed seduction of violinist Heather Cole and cellist Patricia Santos.
Through the scuzzy punk lilted I Refuse and the crepuscular serenade of The Land Of Accidents there was no let-up in new light and invention within Divisions, the latter becoming a fire of emotion and tension by the minute while Meta Incognita is contrastingly a subdued and quaint proposal no less impactful on ears and pleasure. All three just relish the imagination and variety in Nieland’s writing, sound and enterprise with the third bearing a Julian Cope like scent, our enjoyment only following suit.
The celestially haunting Another Night On Earth also has that whiff of the former Teardrop Explodes singer but soon transfixed with its own intimate uniqueness for another moment which only grew and bewitched by the listen while Tightrope, with its rhythmic manipulation and suggestion woven indie jangle, and in turn Skin through Cole and Santos’ stringed melancholy and thickly emotive but often keenly catchy cry simply held rich court on attention.
The indie pop saunter of So Few Have So Much merges warmth and infectiousness with emotive reflection within another body of pure temptation. With celestial harmonies of Hwang, Nieland’s earthier presence and another flush of XTC like colouring, the song resounds in beauty and temptation before leaving the duo of Some Things You Keep To Yourself and Pawns to bring the album to a close.
The first has a sadness and angst to its reflection, melody and rhythmic enticement similarly bound in that emotive tension while its successor immerses ears in a dream like realm of sound and intimation. There is equally a nightmarish side to its presence, an ominous shadow and foreboding carrying intrigue that threatens the light but in reality colludes with the hazy elegance and inherent elegance. If there is beauty in the apocalypse, Nieland has found it.
This absorbing end to Divisions epitomises the adventure, enterprise and imagination which makes up one more of the year’s seriously compelling releases to date. It has proved addictive and so far inescapable in moving on from its masterful lures and craft which in the face of waves of new encounters tells you much about Divisions and your own need to explore.
Divisions is out now, available @ https://charlienieland.bandcamp.com/album/divisions
Pete RingMaster 02/07/2021
Copyright RingMaster Review