The enigmatic quarter from Lyon, France, known as Ni, have resurfaced from the depths of musical abstraction with their riveting new single, “Zerkon“. This avant-garde ensemble, comprising members from L’Effondras, Poil, and PinioL, continues to defy categorization as they pave the way towards their third studio album, Fol Naïs, set to perplex and mesmerize listeners on December 1st via Dur & Doux.
“Zerkon” is a cacophony where noise, metal, math rock, and free jazz find a discordant harmony. It’s an audacious narrative where each track pays homage to the jesters serving at the courts of historical royal figures. The song title itself is a nod to Zercon, the stammering jester of Attila, leader of the Huns, intertwining a thread of historical mockery with modern musical defiance.
True to Ni’s idiosyncratic style, “Zerkon” explores a realm of melodic colors, dabbling in a harmonic mode cherished by the band. The venture into chromaticism shades the composition darker, with a bass ostinato taking the spotlight amidst a sonic improvisation. The rhythmic complexity is no less bewildering. Ni revels in disorienting their audience with rapid alterations in flow, yet amidst the rhythmic maze, a regular pulse persists, cleverly veiled by a myriad of musical devices.
The opening riff, laden with metallic traits, wraps up the first segment, ushering in an era of obsessive, psychedelic improvisation. It’s a journey of sound that challenges conventional musical boundaries while paying a bizarre tribute to the character of Zercon.
Accompanying the single is a captivating music video that exudes the raw energy of live performance, seemingly inviting the viewer to be swept away, or rather run over, by the audacious sounds of Ni. It’s a tantalizing glimpse of the authenticity that Ni is poised to bring to the stage in their upcoming live renditions.
Adding a whimsical yet historical touch to their musical narrative, Ni’s upcoming album, “Fol Naïs,” embodies a playful nod to the jesters who entertained history’s notable rulers.
Translating to “born mad” in archaic French, the album title reflects a perfect semblance of irreverence synonymous with this enigmatic French quartet. Known for their ostensibly “silly and bouncy” auditory persona, Ni took a gravely somber musical detour with “Pantophobie” (2019), mirroring the band’s phase at the time. However, “Fol Naïs” heralds a rekindling of brisk tempos, albeit with a fresh instrumental temperament, exemplifying a band’s age-old conundrum: upholding a past legacy while evolving musically.
With “Fol Naïs,” Ni believes they’ve cracked this code, offering an album that departs from the shadows of “Pantophobie,” yet resonates with a rejuvenated pace that potentially acts as a pivot. The ambition was to broaden their musical realm, channeling the vigor of metal yet retaining the quintessence that binds their sound. The result is a delightful enigma, with tracks that traverse the realms of Math Rock, Noise, Metal, and Jazz, embodying a zest for blurring musical boundaries and keeping their audience intriguingly on edge.
On this voyage of sonic exploration, guitarists Anthony Béard and François Mignot foray into synthesizer-esque realms with new pedal configurations, enhancing their musical dialogue with the unrestrained rhythm section led by Benoit Lecomte (bass) and Nicolas Bernollin (drums). The album’s lead track, “Zerkon,” is a jubilant chaos, hinting at a refined palate being the preferable audience. As the album unfolds, listeners traverse through a spectrum of musical emotions and styles, evoking the spirits of Don Caballero and Meshuggah in some tracks while resonating with the frenzied pulse of Igorrr and Botch in others.
The narrative arc of “Fol Naïs” is not just a musical journey but a reflection of historical jesters, each track named after these whimsical figures. The jesters, historically known for their unmasked, candid performances, symbolize how Ni as artists embrace a semblance of musical buffoonery, defying expectations and basking in the unforeseen. Far from being just a jazzy noise band, Ni’s complex, dissonant, yet profoundly inventive and dance-inducing compositions place them as a beacon of creativity in the French musical domain.
With “Fol Naïs,” Ni continues their quest, a blend of mischief and vehemence, set to enthrall audiences on December 1, 2023. Their audacious compositions, akin to the jesters’ antics of yore, promise a revelry of musical exploration, defying norms, and inviting listeners to a celebratory dance of modern-day musical jesting.