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CD REVIEW: The Nyquist Frequency – Elephant Art
By Chip Withrow - 03/24/2007 - 03:32 PM EDT

Artist: The Nyquist Frequency
Album: Elephant Art
CD Review: I find myself getting these intriguing everything-but-the-kitchen-sink CDs fairly often. I agree with the philosophy - put out all your best songs, even if they are wildly varied thematically and stylistically.

These discs come from musicians who are ambitious and adventurous – perhaps overly so. If you read my reviews, you will find that I have an affinity for these kinds of artists. I like the understated folk albums too, but I’ll also take a big, bold statement of weirdness like that which Keith Nyquist and friends deliver.

Elephant Art is quirky – heck, within the first three tracks I find shades of Queen, Crazy Horse, the Beatles, Brian Wilson, raga and ‘80s dance club. After that, the disc settles into more of a folk-rock vibe, with hints of the Velvet Underground, REM, Brian Wilson, the Smiths and Smashing Pumpkins.

(At least that’s what I hear. And I want to add that if you can combine all those influences, you aren’t copying – you’re onto something original.)

“Mirrorland” launches the disc with a blast of glam-rock guitar, then falls into oddly pretty harp (the stringed kind, not harmonica)/ voice interplay. The lyric “You are floating now” aptly describes the feeling of listening.

“The Wheelbarrow” begins hypnotically – acoustic guitar, single piano and organ notes, spooky, almost overheard vocals. The drums come in to add a pulsing, strobe-lit club feel.

“Sand” is Lennon-esque, with the added treat of multi-tracked monster guitar heroics – Nyquist is quite a player, and by this track I was expecting a full disc’s worth of early ‘70s art-rock weirdness. And that was OK by me.

But then comes a wicked curveball – the infectious “Arctic Circle,” with big ol’ reverb-heavy grungy-yet-chiming guitar and sung/shouted-yet-harmonized vocals. “Tullster,” a couple of tracks later, is just as catchy. (Try as I might, I’ve re-listened to the lyrics and I have no idea where the titles come from.)

“Inn: Another Life” is so cool – imagine all the really good ’80s MTV power pop bands (Smiths, Cure, Ultravox) with the Beach Boys singing. The poppy, more acoustic “Sunflower” has similar appeal, with a sweet synth riff.

“Dark Skies” is propulsive like “Life” and “Sunflower,” but with slightly discordant ‘70s arena rock guitar work – if “That ‘70s Show” had been a much, much better program, this would have been its theme song.

Acoustic numbers are tossed around the album like change-ups (I’m writing this from Florida, and I've baseball spring training on my mind). “Parsifal Saturday Nights” is the wildest of the acoustic numbers – trippy, with distorted volleys of electric guitar.

Like a lot of these wildly varied discs I like, I find new shimmering twists with each listen – right now it’s the fun “ba-ba-ba-ba-ba” vocals that close the album on “Sunset.” I noticed Nyquist’s guitar playing the first time through; the second time I caught the keyboard flourishes (he plays those, too). Think I’ll go back and listen to the words this time to see if there’s any relationship at all to the titles.

www.nyquistfrequency.net



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