My thoughts on “Odyssey”, the first single from NILKLY.
Release Date: September 25th 2019
2. asthma (Nil Version)
As we’ve probably established pretty well by now, I’m not exactly the closest follower of AQBI and their various Idol projects. Certainly not as closely as many people I know who sing their praises as loudly and as often as possible. It’s not that I don’t particularly care for any of these groups but I just have other stuff I prioritize over them a lot of the time. Probably unfairly but the day only has so many hours and my attention can only be focused in so many places at once. Good thing I’m making the effort to go out of my way to check things out that I might otherwise not this year then.
Enter NILKLY, the latest Idol project from AQBI. Despite the costuming this group isn’t actually a direct successor to THERE THERE THERES who disbanded back in February. Hirasawa Mei also made the jump to this project though so there’s definitely a bit more lineage here than they’d maybe like to acknowledge. Especially so if you glance up at the tracklist and note the rather popular Bellring/TTT track that’s featured as a b-side on this release. What do I know though, I’m just a casual viewer making observations using the facts available to me. Perhaps I’m missing something, feel free to let me know.
As far as this single goes, I’m not really sure what to expect out of this new group. Of course I’m fairly familiar with “asthma” as a song along with a few other Belling/TTT tracks over the years and you know, the costuming does sort of make you think along a certain kind of track. If this ends up just being TTT with a fresh coat of paint I’ll be fairly content with that outcome and if it’s something else entirely then we’ll have to see how it plays out. This is a debut single from a new group which needs to make an impression and as listeners we need to approach it with as open a mind as possible. Fair is fair and all.
Title track “Odyssey” presents the listener with their first glimpse of what a NILKLY song is supposed to sound like and there’s certainly plenty of song here to get your teeth into as this one clocks in at just over 6 minutes long. The first minute or so is spent building up the instrumental which starts out with some light, repetitive drumming and modulated guitar accompanying a very simple vocal melody before taking on a bit more of an edge and bringing in a fairly spooky sounding synthesizer to set the tone. Vocals eventually make an appearance, fairly raw in nature on the whole but I think that adds to the atmosphere that’s being created by the instrumental. There’s definitely an uneasy air to things, in my opinion anyway. The lyrics are catchy in a ritualistic chant kind of way which is kinda cool and they do get their hooks into you after a while. Instrumentally things are pretty repetitive too, but there’s some pretty interesting experimentation in the middle of the track where things get a bit more free-form in nature. The last minute or so is also very strong, with many of the song’s various elements coming together in an emotionally charged crescendo that actually left me feeling like we went somewhere with this track. It’s still pretty darn long though and it probably doesn’t need to be but yeah, pretty interesting stuff.
The single’s first b-side is the aforementioned “asthma” which I’m sure most people have probably heard at least a time or two by now in its previous iterations. As far as studio versions go, this one is fairly comparable to the original though they might have tightened the instrumental up just a touch or maybe I’m imagining things here. Any differences are pretty subtle if they are there which you know, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I’ve always rather liked how this song combines its more serene, orchestral elements with the fuzzier Alternative Rock that makes up the other side of the equation. While perhaps not so groundbreaking in 2019, this was definitely something that was far less common when this song was originally recorded so hopefully that doesn’t get too lost on anyone who hasn’t been following the scene as long. The vocals for better or worse mimic the original fairly closely too, with the verses always being a bit of a sticking point with me. I get the idea of layering the vocals into the instrumental but there’s times where they really struggle to come through and it’s kinda hard not to notice. The soaring chorus has none of these issues however, with its brightness standing in stark contrast to the melancholy of the verses. This is an important song and this is definitely a very faithful rendition of it, maybe almost too faithful if we’re not trying to hitch our wagon to another group’s history.
Rounding out the single is second b-side “REM” which is a pretty nebulous title for a song but you know, make of it what you will. Maybe the composer is a big fan of the band R.E.M. or perhaps the anime character of the same name. That’s beside the point though, this song is pretty weird folks. It starts out with a bunch of synthesizer reverb that is accented by a very subtle secondary synth melody, all of which plays out until the introduction of the vocals, which are very loud, bright and verging on ethereal sounding at times. All of this while somehow managing to maintain a heavily melancholic tone. The instrumental sort of fades into the background while this is all going on, taking on more of an ambient sort of style on the synthesizer front but also incorporating a drumbeat to keep the tempo ticking along at a nice clip. Then the middle of the song hits and things take a drastic change in direction. The instrumental becomes much more ominous after a glitchy moment and ambiance is replaced by a much more heavy atmosphere. The vocals also change to match this, taking on a somewhat unhinged quality, though I’m not really sure about the part where it sounded like everyone was throwing up. Maybe a bit much. Yeah, like I said this song is pretty weird. Not really sure I’ve done it justice with this write-up but you should definitely go experience it for yourself.
For a debut single, “Odyssey” is a pretty interesting listen. A lot of its ideas are a bit out there by normal standards but this is an AQBI group that we’re talking about after all. It would be a bit odd if they’re weren’t trying to push the envelope. Not really something I can just throw on and listen to casually but if I’m in the mood to have my mind bent a little and my concept of music challenged then this single does a pretty good job of that.
For all the talk of NILKLY not being a direct successor to Bellring or TTT, there’s certainly more than a couple of similarities. Well, at least as far as my casual perspective is concerned. I don’t think it’s a bad thing either way though, the music is interesting if unconventional and there’s plenty of Bellring/TTT fans out there who I’m sure would be happy to see the groups’ legacy continue in some form. If that is what actually ends up happening or not though remains to be seen. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.