Scout Niblett - The Calcination of Scout Niblett
Scout Niblett returns for another bout of fuzzbox heavy, grunge-inspired warfare. Paired with her favourite tag-team partner Steve Albini on production duties, this is an album deeply reminiscent of his work with PJ Harvey’s seminal Rid Of Me, every utterance from voice, guitar and drums are perfectly preserved. Post-production utterly unnecessary, every bead of sweat and buzzing string has been perfectly captured in its natural form. No embellishment required. Presented as it was played. And wow, how it was played!
Unashamedly influenced by Kurt Cobain and Harvey, their spectres loom over the instrumentation as much as it does the production. The Breeders are in there too, their shadowy moments circa Title TK peering out from the darkness. The Niblett/Albini pairing are the masters of the loud/quiet dynamic, resulting in the slightest shift having a devastating affect. Brushing the strings with a minimal increase in pressure or velocity sends shockwaves in every direction.
As the opening riff of ‘Cherry Cheek Bomb’ starts to take shape a glance to check someone hasn’t switched the CD for Motorhead is necessary, its rhythmic force kicking the door down for Scout to gently pirouette though, stopping then starting. Her guitar stabs toward the heart only for it to be restrained inches before the intended target, never failing to cause a sharp intake of breath. On ‘Lucy Lucifer’ the guitar is discarded entirely. Instead vocals clash with drums alone. It begins to evoke a tribal beat that never quite gets started, teasing but never becoming fully formed. Rather than being disappointing such unabashed reprimand is utterly captivating.
This impressive instrumentation alone would unsettle most listeners, but it serves as a jagged backdrop for Scout’s emotive voice to jut over. Every breath, sigh and holler is layered deep with sentiment and passion. In an instant she can leap from a sparse and empty space to the meters flicking into the red. It twists in so many directions and you can never be sure quite where it’s going to go next. It’s this uncertainty that leads to the record demanding your total attention. Take your eyes off the ball for a second and it will be sinking its teeth into your throat.
Ms. Niblett, you leave us happy and bleeding.