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Erica Nockalls - Imminent Room (Album Review)

Monday, 22 April 2013 Written by Graeme Marsh

Famous for her role within The Wonderstuff and as one half of her personal and professional partnership with Wonderstuff frontman Miles Hunt, Erica Nockalls is renowned for her expertise on the violin, having trained at the Birmingham Conservatoire; she has now chosen to step out of the background and into the limelight with her first foray into the solo field.

When initially starting out on the road to writing her own material, Nockalls was driven by her lack of interest and satisfaction with current music already out there which is where many of us end up, the lucky ones being of the age where they can still do something about it – and Nockalls certainly has with this effort that defies categorisation, sounding like a concoction of many ideas and influences.

The inner sleeve bears the declaration of how this album came into being, but it also states how this has not been produced with the aim of pleasing everyone, but it’s more of a case of trying to make her own existence more bearable; which could be interpreted as coming from a tortured soul, perhaps?

Nockalls is no stranger to writing material, having contributed to the recent Wonderstuff album; she has also developed ability in guitar, piano, vocals, synthesizers and more, as her own input into this record is considerably greater than you would initially imagine.  A talent for art is also apparent, with a forthcoming release of paintings depicting each track that she has put together as an accompaniment to the album.

Lead single 'Manikin' kicks things off in rather chaotic style, with a lack of recognised structure in place, kind of muted vocals that sound as if they’re being sung through a megaphone, all giving the appearance of an electro song about modelling (quite handily, the meaning of each song has been provided in the liner notes – a nice touch) with its explicit “champagne, cocaine socialite It-girl” lyrics explaining in no uncertain terms what can go on in the modelling world.

'Neon Crucifix' gives a first indication of bitterness coming to the fore, being about a friend who has turned their back on friendship in exchange for God; 25 seconds of bizarre fairground, circus-like flute (which is approximately 25 seconds too long) starts the track before it starts proper, a faster tempo to an electro-pop beat with crunchy - and noodling - guitars occasionally thrown into the mix.  The post-apocalyptic romance song 'Serpentine City' follows, a beautiful and mournfully sung track with the first real fiddle of any note playing a sorrowful part in a sombre moment, with “let’s get married under the stars…we can’t see them” lyrics adorning proceedings.

The strings expertise comes to the forefront on 'Cut Them Out', the track being driven by a memorable violin line, with acoustic guitar adding an extra layer to another electro beat; the minimalist sound of 'I Am Me', 'This Is Now' is about standing up to the reality of a broken relationship and features echoey guitars with intermittent violin.

'After Day One, One Day' and 'Lover Fifty-One' make their somewhat average appearances, the most easily accessible track on the album kicks in – 'One More Forest'; this has a real poppy feel to it and is built upon an electro beat that sounds a little like something Ladytron may have produced – a definite highlight, this song being about failing to appreciate what you have.

Atmospheric harmonies and emotional strings adorn 'It’s Killer', Darling', with a sickly sweet vocal appearing occasionally; this is where you get the feeling Nockalls will shine in the future, playing to her strengths to wring such emotion from the violin which then continues into the title track.  Again, some incredibly powerful strings straight out of a classical piece of music accompany harmonious vocals and acoustic guitar to provide an unquestionable highlight as Nockalls showcases her talent.

Album closer 'Goodbye Spider' is another beautifully serene, sparsely populated moment about release; a delicate, very sadly sung number softly declaring that “I won’t let you use this body as a host”.

This is a difficult album to appreciate, being very inaccessible at first and hard to pigeonhole; with repeated plays, however, it’s a definite grower and now that she is up and running and free from the inner feelings from where these songs came, it would not be surprising to see Nockalls returning with something slightly more commercially angled – and if she focuses on her strings expertise then we could see something very big from her indeed.

'Imminent Room' is released on Monday 13th May on IRL Records.

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