The Calcination of Scout Niblett
Record Review by Adam McKibbin
Whether you are directing a movie or simply trying to win an argument, never underestimate the power of a pregnant pause. This is something that Scout Niblett grasps well; the dominant mood on The Calcination of Scout Niblett is “simmering,” the tension racheting up as she sings and wails and moans over the most minimal of electric riffs. When the release comes, like in the fiery conclusion of “Cherry Cheek Bomb,” it packs a wallop – and you kind of want to stay and live there for a long while.
Her fifth album, Calcination is a fairly natural continuation of her catalog; influenced by Kurt Cobain and in the long shadow of PJ Harvey, Niblett has nonetheless managed to carve out a contemporary niche for herself, seemingly less and less concerned with the potential for crossover success with the passing of each album cycle. That’s presumably A-OK with her producer, returning champion Steve Albini, who of course produced both Nirvana and Harvey in the early ‘90s, but has never been a guy to regurgitate formulas for commercial success. Instead, he lets Niblett’s songs breathe to such an extent that the album can be somewhat standoffish in the early going.
Calcination starts with “Just Do It!” – a title that seems cheeky, not just given Niblett’s unlikeliness to shill for a major shoe company any time soon (or to be asked to do so), but also because the song obstinately refuses to just do much of anything, skulking along with ominous moans and minimalism. The album is like Paranormal Activity or Blair Witch in that regard – and only in that regard: you spend more time on the edge of your seat waiting for that monster riff (or monster) than you do actually experiencing it.
When the storms come, they’re pretty glorious – cataclysms of crashing drums and angry-sounding riffs. There’s an unusual depth of feeling to The Calcination of Scout Niblett, one that needs to be felt over the full course of the album to be fully experienced.
Scout Niblett - Kidnapped by Neptune
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