Erica Nockalls (EN) - Imminent Room (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
ERICA Nockall’s debut solo album, Imminent Room was born out of frustration and a desire to be different. It certainly conforms to the latter.
“I hadn’t been able to find any good new music to listen to, so I thought I’d invent some of my own,” she says.
The result is difficult to pigeon-hole. A collection of angular, melodic songs with savagely honest lyrics, this is – as Nockall candidly admits – the result of what happens “when you grow up on an aural diet of Pet Shop Boys, Vivaldi and Marilyn Manson”.
Since graduating from Birmingham Conservatoire with honours, Erica has spent the past seven years as a professional violinist with The Wonder Stuff. Since 2008, The Proclaimers have also repeatedly used her as their live violinist. And she recently returned from a four week European tour with Fink, performing on violin, viola and providing backing vocals.
She has also recorded strings for the latest Ting Tings album, Sounds From Nowhereville.
The biggest surprise surrounding her debut album, therefore, is how subdued the violins sometimes are. This doesn’t really place that sound to the fore, although when it does it’s at its best.
Cut Them Out features some thrilling violin sections, coupled with pumped up beats and swirling electronic arrangements that lend the track a vibrancy that’s impossible to ignore (especially when coupled with her distinct vocals).
And I Am Me, This Is Now drops angular melodies and vaguely menacing vocals over a song that wails in Marilyn Manson-like fashion and which comes complete with guest appearances from Wayne Hussey and Mark Gemini Thwaite, of The Mission. One of the busiest cuts on the LP, there are some thrilling guitar solos as well as some violins. And it’s another highlight.
Elsewhere, however, Nockalls is content to place other things front and centre. Her voice is all she mostly needs on the sombre, serene Lover Fifty-One for long periods. And, as a result, there’s a Sinead O’Connor vibe attached. The violin arrangements, meanwhile, lend it a fragile beauty.
As good as some moments of the album are, though, others feel a little muddled. Manikin, the album opener, strives perhaps a little too hard to offer something different. Some of the distortions don’t work.
One More Forest, a little later on, also fails to satisfy despite some questioning lyrics (“is everything good, or is it just alright?”). It’s a riot of noise at times but not in a good way.
That said, there’s always something interesting going on as best exemplified by title track Imminent Room, which again brings the violins back to greater prominence and assumes a dream-like, even cinematic quality.
The overall result may be an acquired taste. But that’s probably just the way Nockalls would like it. It is very different and consistently intriguing.
Download picks: Cut Them Out, I Am Me, This Is Now, Lover Fifty-One, Imminent Room