With a heightened anticipation inspired by the recent release of the excellent single You’re So Boring, sitting down with the new album from Seattle artist Niko came with a sense of something special was about to happen. The single had marked the heart with its infectious and highly charged emotion but would the album follow it up to the same satisfaction. What emerged was a release which across its length was wonderfully unpredictable and enjoyable if at times variable, but more than once reached the same irresistible pleasure as on the single.
Nicole Vergel de Dios grew up destined to make and breathe music, her multi-cultural heritage sowing seeds and her life growing up surrounded and inspired by great sounds through her parents record collection to ignite her passion. She spent her days and years performing, singing in choirs, and learning the piano. Music was her obsession and love, something which is apparent in every aspect of her album and evident in every word and sound. 2004 saw the release of her acclaimed debut album Life on Earth where she started working with producer Andy Turner, aka Aim. The following year Niko and Aim began their own imprint ATIC Records the move opening up their creative freedom and control.
Hate & Love has been four intense years in the making with the artist said to have taken a huge artistic leap forward since her debut release. Whilst the two singles from it, The Daddy Remix and previously mentioned You’re So Boring, make the suggestion that the claim is accurate the album easily confirms the fact. The release is a warmly infectious yet shadowed collection of songs in distinct and varied guises. Carefully structured and adventurous the release leaves one in no doubt of the time and effort gone into every aspect of the album.
The album immediately opens to wrong foot the senses. The Blight Of Old is deeply atmospheric with an abstract breath and surreal essence which equally sparkles and grates especially vocally where Niko seems to be searching for either notes beyond her or those not yet invented. The song is a grower but never achieves a peace with the ear or senses. It is a very surprising start and maybe a teasing test from the lady for our thoughts and expectations but does not damage the keenness to explore more.
The brilliant You’re So Boring soon has things back in the world of contagion, the song a provocative and emotive release of pent up emotions and renewed energy. With a delicious spiky bassline and glorious harmonies to ignite all passions the track is the most compulsive and catchy example of a woman scorned put to music. The song is one which comes to you any time of the day and night its hold complete from the first introduction and sure to have you singing or humming out loud and at any time, not great when in a mosh pit but needs must.
The following A Life In Dreams ensures the close connection between heart and album is continued with its caressing electronic warmth and heaven borne melodies. It is a dazzling piece of electro pop, a mesmeric weave to immerse deeply within as Niko serenades with her distinct and sirenesque voice. The song completes three tracks which show the eclectic and diverse songwriting and imagination of album and artist which the likes of the exquisite hypnotic title track and the eager electro pop fuelled I Can’t Get Enough readily emphasize. Both songs are stunning showers of golden electronic suns and shining atmospheric grace, the latter of the two bringing an increased urgency and feisty air to its summer spawn heart.
The sensational So Famous is another hypnotic treat with its relentless niggling guitar spine and scuzzy edged electric breath and as the album continues more enterprise appears in the shapes of Tiger Balm and Arigato My Roboto. The first is a song which glides ambient textures and breezy atmospheres whilst the second recalls the golden age of disco, and is much better than that sounds. The Daddy Remix ensures one more glorious moment, its vibrant pulse and featured hip hop guests QNC making it an irresistible and fully infectious piece of unique ear candy whilst the closing Over You is a magical heart delivered and emotional prize from the special voice and songwriting of Niko.
Hate & Love arguably did not quite live up to initial expectations but then they were incredibly high. It is though an impressive and expressive collection of songs which follow their own admirable rules to leave one very satisfied.