We all know the mainstream music scene is turgid with generic bilge. As a result, pop can be a dirty word. But it is my belief that it doesn’t have to be. The term pop is short for popular; meaning that it is appealing to a wide-range of people by design, therefore writing something with wide appeal can be an art-form in itself.
In this case, pop is short for ‘Popola’, the name of the latest free EP by Bristol-based two-piece Nova Robotics. They have emerged quietly out of the cacophony of genre-slamming artists who manage to marry ‘technically interesting’ with the hallmarks of popular music. NR have been steadily chipping away at their stream-lined, club-friendly brand of post-rock for the best part of 6 years now. This latest effort verges on the grandeur of generic post-rock, only to fool the listener with some cleverly placed commercially viable sounds and motifs.
…that brings us to the wub.
The wub is a bone of contention for many electronic music fans these days since commercial Dubstep reduced this beloved moniker of synthesised sound to nothing more than shit short-hand for a shallow genre.
Nova Robotics have interlaced the quintessential ‘wub’ with a straight, pounding 808 kick and snare; drawing it away from the predictable dush-pah! of almost every commercial dubstep track. This is basically a trance-step fusion with a surprising hint of text book post-rock guitar lines. Delayed one-string noodling patters dance across pumping kick drum and a rising and falling crescendo. As a point of reference, think Explosions In The Sky meets Deadmau5.
The EP is a logical step forward from previous releases; showing off what seems to be their over-arching style but with a developed sensibility that nods to elements of mainstream dubstep as well as trance. Genre-slamming is perhaps NR’s intention as that formidable ’wub’ presses hard against the delay-laden guitars but at times this technique feels over-used. NR are far from one-dimensional as tracks like ‘SupaNova’ and ‘Overproof’ show but the other two tracks on this EP feel somewhat rigid by comparison.
For this reason, the EP is split right down the middle. The title track ‘Popola’ is almost NR-by-numbers, with its meandering melody and perpetual umph! umph! umph! But compare this against the phenomenal phazing bassline that comes in 0.35sec’s into ‘SupaNova’ and you can’t deny that their sound has developed somewhat. The darkly experimental ‘Overproof’ quietly does away with the largely forgettable third track ‘Devola’, daring the listener to relax with its eerie fizz then slowly introducing those brooding distorted chords before bending said chords across a stuttering off-beat drop. A touch of post-rock guitar is the only sense of familiarity in this track as its daring and brooding brings this short yet snappy EP to a close.
The ‘Popola EP’ is a testament to what is achievable outside of a pro-studio these days and compliments their hitherto DIY ethic with its big synthy textures. It also successfully binds a pop sensibility with elements of guitar and electronic sub-genres. It does however, seem to hint at something great rather than be something great. This reviewer would like to see a full album of songs as cleverly structured and sonically satisfying as the tracks 2 and 4 from this record.
Nova Robotics – SupaNova
Deep Link to the Release Page