Ninoosh: Town Of Hundred

Small town chanteuse or epic sound collager, there's a lot to Ninoosh

- Must be because my glass is half-empty, but when I first read the title Town Of Two Hundred it immediately felt …  stifling, like: urgh, smalltown and stir-crazy, just gotta get out! Conversely, Anya Trybala -who is Ninoosh- was actually talking about an idyllic Swedish village, the hometown of her partner and just a real nice place to be when she’s not back home in Melbourne. It is also, apparently, the place she first started messing around with Ableton Live and got the ball rolling for all her musical ambitions.

Must be very inspiring because she has a few ambitions: she’s not just the synth-pop chanteuse that you’ll hear on most of the songs here, but also a found-sound artist who’s got a record brimming with sample collages, coming out later this year. She’s even got her own Synth Babe record label to put all of it out on.

Unsurprisingly the sound collage stuff bleeds into the synth-pop and that’s most obvious on the EP’s opening cut, Snow Crush. It’s a track you’ll also find on that forthcoming sample-based release and it features scratchy and heavily treated banjo or guitar (it’s difficult to tell through the production murk) banging away in strange rhythmic patterns. Still, somehow it manages to come across very harmoniously and sounds like nothing so much as the banjo-tronic work of Andrew Tuttle.

It’s a strange little overture for the rest of the EP which swerves from there into lush but languorous synth pop, there is a connection though. People In The Speakers builds out of a childish fantasy of, well, just what it says, folks living in the hi-fi. The song is a kind of invocation, an ever more expansive invitation to the li’l fellas to come on out and join the music making. Vocally and thematically it splits the difference between that slightly twee Aussie singer-songwriter sound, a-la Holly Throsby and the mid-career experimentations of Tori Amos. Like Amos’ work of the Songs From The Choirgirl Hotel period there’s a willingness to try all sorts of sounds -a trumpet here, guitar loop there, vocal overdubs and so on- which Ninoosh usually deploys in an almost fugue form: slowly building up layer after layer into a swaying pyramid of sound.

With the focus on carefully constructed edifices, the EP always seems to be too measured, or just too heavy to really go nuts. The cutting electro and paranoid anxiety of Fears Of Life could have really taken off into an edm anthem, but Ninoosh prefers to let the paranoia simmer away rather than run wild.

That Sinking Feeling takes a turn into summery, loungey but still punchy fusion. It sounds like something that David Byrne would come up with at his most indulgently ironic: feelings of impending disaster put to a euphoric pop melody, swelling again to an intricately layered climax.

Being overly simplistic is not something Ninoosh appears likely to be accused of, ever. The sexy slink of Palms is wrapped up in a million layers too. It actually explores themes of grief and loss but perhaps these qualities would come across with more immediacy if Ninoosh weren’t wearing her entire wardrobe of audio wizardry at the same time.

Ninoosh saves a political suckerpunch for last, Football employs a mournful waltz and a sporting metaphor to illustrate the crappy treatment of refugees in Australia. I have the same feeling -amongst the melancholy whirl of sounds- that the finger pointing would be more effective if it were more obvious.

I’m not saying I dislike any of this. There’s a lot to like here, although the emphasis may be on the fact that there really is a lot. Town Of Two Hundred doesn’t feel like an early career effort. It feels like the output of someone who’s done it all and wants to show off everything they’ve learned, each idea that’s blossomed in their mind along the way. That turns out to be a great deal to fit into just one EP. Maybe that’s where I was getting the sense of being stifled: Ninoosh has so much to say and it all just came flooding out in that little Swedish village. I’m content to get lost amongst the layers, but I think if Ninoosh gets a hold on her ambitious enthusiasm, there may be more exciting stuff to come.

- Chris Cobcroft.

Album Details

Album Title: Town Of Two Hundred
Artist: Ninoosh
Record Label: (Synth Babe)