Fronted by songwriter Nack Jicholson, and featuring Matt Davis on drums and Roxanne Miller on bass, synths, and Omnichord, NothingDark is a new and dynamic indie-synthpop-rock outfit from Montreal who started in mid-February 2018. In a very short time indeed, they’ve amassed a collection of songs that throb and flex, pitching to the rhythm of slowly gyrating hips and liquid late-night trysts. It’s intense an ethereal, almost to the point of being hypnotically venomous. Their songs are more captivating than they are catchy; more challenging than they are pretentious; more ambitious than they are hopeful, and more luxuriant than they are ostentatious. In summary, if you’re expecting little synth-pop ditties to singalong to, then step back, slide your headphones on, and embrace a much more enveloping sound experience that will excite you as much as it will enchant you.
NothingDark is by no means your ordinary conveyor-belt manufactured, synth-pop or rock outfit. Their four-track EP “Tricks”, is entirely self-recorded, self-mixed, and self-produced. Which is obviously the very first step to avoiding any creative shackles or label impositions.
This is a trio of musicians that require room to breathe, in order to produce music that commutes beyond simple vocal hooks and engaging instrumental lines. Though those elements are perspicaciously present too, NothingDark injects atmosphere, emotion and mood into each of their songs.
They possess the alternative broodiness of Depeche Mode, the mainstream immediacy of U2 and the sometimes neo-romantic designs of early Simple Minds, all twisted into a visual and sonic package that currently has no equivalent in the music market.
Pretty much on their own, the members of NothingDark are forced to carve their own lane. Cleverly, they open the EP with their most accessible track, “Your Saturday” – a punchy mid-tempo song, featuring rolling percussion, easily grasped vocal one-liners and an all-round forward moving momentum. It provides a welcoming entrance.
“Helpless” instantly drops you right into the middle of NothingDark’s incredibly woven intensity, using a minimal amount of sound. Some harmonies, some keys, understated hand-clapping, and a solitary kick drum is enough to chromatically illuminate a palette ultimately ignited by Nack Jicholson’s slowly flaring vocals. This song forges an ensnaring melody which gently but firmly seizes your senses bar after bar.
“Big Change” swings back to a powerful mid-tempo beat with controlled but flamboyantly tasteful drumming by Matt Davis. The trio is on cruise control here in a song that ramps up the relational fervor with introspective sentiments – “You’re close to me, you’re closer than my own skin,” sings Nack.
Musically “Wish” follows in the same vein as “Helpless”, again with prominent synth work by Roxanne Miller and the kind of doomy, downward key changes which underpins some of their finest work here.
Nack Jicholson’s fragmented and imploding vocals are essential in giving this track its shattering emotive crush, while wrapped in an overturned vacuum that bristles with muted ardor, leaving Davis’ loudly banging drums free of orgasmic restriction. It is an effectively poignant piece of work, which alongside “Helpless” forms the EP’s absolute standout tracks in my book.
“Tricks” is the kind of album that shines a light on our basest traits and encourages us to think differently all over again. This is the kind of music we need more of. Thankfully NothingDark already have another EP well into the recording stages, and more music videos on the way.