[REVIEW] Nerdkween – Profitandloss

Atlanta’s Nerdkween (the recording alias of Monica Arrington) is proof that “lo-fi” can be much more than a crutch, limitation, or gimmick. The seven songs on Profitandloss were recorded using DIY, lo-fi production, but it never sounds like they were done so out of pure economic necessity or a need to obscure dull songwriting. The production seems deliberate and supportive of Arrington’s ambitious compositions.

Opener “Catalyst” is all gentle drones, samples, and loops, where the tape hiss softens the edges of the song and adds to the overall atmosphere. It’s kind of like Grouper, but with keyboard instead of guitar. It leads into “Let Me Go,” which is evidence that Arrington could play it straight if she wanted to. It’s straightforward singer-songwriter stuff, with Arrington’s strong, classically-trained vocals front and center, unadorned and unobscured. The next track dives right back into the haze, though – “Let Me Go (afterward)” is a short reprise that takes the preceding song and turns it into a ghostly echo, a negative image of the original.

The rest of the EP has a similar balance. The loops on “Such Grace” are the clearest nod to the minimalist composers Arrington cites as influences, and they turn a love song into something of a hypnotic hymn. On “Bird Twitters,” the harshly strummed banjo and the rawness with which it’s recorded underscore a determination in the lyrics that’s mostly absent in the softer-edged vocals. These are the details and contrasts that make Profitandloss so intriguing.

I could do without closer “…A Year of the Dragon,” though. It’s an instrumental hip hop track that comes out of nowhere. There’s nothing really wrong with the track itself, but it doesn’t sound anything like the rest of the otherwise cohesive EP. Maybe it would have played differently on a longer release with more left-field digressions, but on Profitandloss, it breaks the spell.

Small complaint, though. This is a singular EP that deserves to be heard. You can stream “Let Me Go” below, but keep in mind that it’s only one of the Profitandloss’ several modes. You need to hear the whole thing to get a handle on Nerdkween, so sample/purchase the rest here. Or you can catch the release show at the Highland Inn Ballroom on Saturday (11/28), where a copy of the CD is included with your $8 cover.

  1. Thanks for the nice words!


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