BY DREW LACOUTURE
The most impressive thing that an electronic group can accomplish is making synthesized sounds feel like a live performance, and “The Gamble” does just that.
German, electronic trio Nonkeen creates a well-groomed and surreal debut album that is not meant for everyday music listeners.
This album is not lengthy, but it is patient and it really marches to the beat of its own drum.
Despite the synthesized sounds there are plenty of real instrumentation to be found.
“Cermanic People” is the first on the album to feature a clear drum kit and it really does sound like a jazz drummer is behind it.
Nonkeen is a group that clearly has been performing together for a long time. This is an album with gorgeous instrumentation that displays everyone’s strengths.
“Saddest Day on Earth” is a somber, mellow track that features great guitar and synthesizer with an obvious Tycho influence. While “This Beautiful Mess” is where everyone gets to shine with the bass, drums and synthesizers together almost sounding like a BadBadNotGood song.
What will really satisfy electronic fans or just music fans in general is that every song on here is dripping with atmosphere and is never at any point remotely catchy. The only song that might get stuck in somebody’s head is the single “Chasing God through Palmyra” because of its keyboard line.
What makes this album so intriguing is that it never lets the listener become comfortable. There is enough control to keep each song focused, but enough improvisational and looseness that really keeps the listener guessing. This might even be strange and unsettling for some people.
This notion is enhanced by songs like “Animal Farm” with its deep, looping vocal line and “Capstan” with its bare-bone composition and keyboard pauses that are actually quite haunting.
Besides “Invention Mother’s” clear intro-like intent, this is an album that really can be represented as one giant piece of music. Almost all of the tracks bleed into each other and while the song titles might be trying to tell a story or theme, it is not something that should be looked into that much. The music alone carries the album to be enjoyable without a deeper meaning.
This is an album that is meant to be listened to from beginning to end with no pauses, no distractions and no Spotify ads to break the momentum. One may say this album is an experience in the same way Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” is.
There is no doubt a formula to each song and it is hard to notice until multiple listens in. Just about every track starts very soft, more instrumentation and textures are added as the song goes on, and then the track begins to die out during the last thirty seconds.
This could be because these tracks were recorded over a long period of time, but it is hard to ignore once the formula is realized. It’s the only characteristic of the album that feels slightly predictable.
Nonkeen’s debut is quite something to admire. It really is not meant for everybody and could possibly bore the living hell out of some people.
Its curious atmosphere often leaves the listener asking “What is going?” and that is where the excitement on the album lies. This is why the uplifting closer “Return” is so rewarding, because the piano line is so sweet and welcoming unlike the rest of the album.
“The Gamble” is a creative piece of music that demands a full listen for anybody looking for some original, experimental, electronic music.
The Flyer gives “The Gamble” by Nonkeen an 8/10.