“More rock, fuck post,” state Nikko on their MySpace page. Why, I’m not sure. I can think of several counterpoints to their refusal to position themselves as post-rock. One, they’re so firmly lodged within the genre - without hyperbole, they’re worthy of being listed alongside international greats like Mogwai and Explosions In The Sky - that to describe them as anything else would be misleading. Two, there aren’t many national bands trying to stake a claim within these musical confines (aside from the recently decamped The Dead Sea and fellow Brisbane natives Castles Sunk Below The Sea). Third, since when is post-rock something to be ashamed of? Fourth and most importantly, they do it well.
The Warm Side is Nikko’s debut album, following their formation five years ago. Fittingly, these nine songs have been subject to a long gestation process: the recordings were completed in August 2009, whereafter the band shopped it to labels before finding a home with Sydney’s Tenzenmen (Scul Hazzards, Paint Your Golden Face).
There are no corners cut here, and not a moment wasted. The quintet’s ambitions are best realised on the title track, which builds toward a crescendo via Blair Westbrook’s thunderous tom rolls, Sam Whiting’s rapidfire bass and Adam Cadell’s fraught violin shivers. Ryan Potter’s deep voice intones upon half of the tracks here. In a delivery that’s more spoken than sung, he enunciates each syllable with infinite patience. His voice grounds the music. It's the only human presence amid layers of soaring instrumentation.
There’s a sinister beauty to ‘Wedding Song’, while album closer ‘Reflector’ revels in lyrical curiosities (“Beneath perfect surface, the sharks attack/Like your smile makes me nervous, like venus fly traps”), swarms of reverse tape-effected guitars and a sudden climax.
On The Warm Side, Nikko oscillate between the subtle and the bombastic, while proving themselves as prime candidates for Australia’s post-rock crown. Whether or not they’re willing to accept it is something else entirely.
by Andrew McMillen