I have seldom been glued to my headphones like this, NITS' new album Knot is a masterpiece! And a very unexpected direction. It's partially even a bit "Krautrock-ish", which is more than amazing. To me this album is at the same time as different from anything else they have done so far, as it very much includes all their experiences, skills and approaches from past works. Nits have been one of my all-time favourites, along with The Beatles. Since I met them through their European smash hit from the 80s "In The Dutch Mountains", which still appears on One Hit Wonder compilations they have been close to my heart and their albums have been constantly changing surprises. Even a superficial listen will reveal this a first rank world class band that keeps on changing with almost every album and there are many, many jewels to discover.
And now this. The new album. They love four letter album titles we've had Tent, Work, Omsk, Kilo, Henk, Hat, Urk, Ting, Nest, Vest, Hits, Wool, 1974, Angst and this one is called "Knot". And like a knot there is a lot to untangle. There are moments on Knot that do remind me of moments on past works like Giant Normal Dwarf, earlier releases like Omsk, the more recent Wool, Les Nuits, Angst, the song The Potato Eaters, my beloved Henk Hofstede solo album Het Dragbaare Huis, or ... there is so much to discover. To me these are some of the most un-NITS-y NITS pieces ever. They are unlike everything they have done so far but breathe everything they have done so far. Is this really a band that has been founded in 1974?! This album sounds so thirsty for musical adventures.
Even more, there are many instances where they are expanding their musical palette, for example with lengthy disharmonic parts, some almost cut-up like use of vocals, dark synth sounds, even elements reminiscent to some more vocal styles used in classical minimalism.
The lyrics are more than ever an integral part of the experience, I will need to read them once I get the CD. There are a lot of autobiographical references to Henk's mother's death, artworks and artists that are intertwined with is life, literature, pop music ... What I catch even only on streaming via Spotify made me think, these are the most unusual lyrics they have done, the album in itself is a whole multilayered package. The production is outstanding, the playing and arranging is outstanding, the keys are definitely some of the very best of their career, high up there along with Ting, though on an very different level, with a very different approach. The drums, just wow. The whole band is playing as an awesome unit. As an additional nod Knot when Knot was released Leonard Cohen's posthumous "Thanks For The Dance" dropped as well, Cohen being one of the huge musical influences on Henk, along with The Beatles and Bob Dylan. He has released two solo albums as tribute to Cohen.
I am ranking Knot extremely high within the whole NITS canon. It's high up there along with my other favourites Ting, Giant Normal Dwarf and Urk and Angst. I do not want to go much further within my ranking but as a statement and as an artistic package it may easily top even those. When I saw the cover on the big screen for the first time and we zoomed in, I was shocked how very well it fits the album. As a thumbnail it does look like fabric, when zoomed in it's a mosaic of washed away portraits of the individual band members that gives me the feeling of memories drifting off to the past. The album is just like that. I am pretty sure that my first impressions of the music and lyrics will expand and deepen as well. I may retract some of my above claims and add others. This album screams for multiple attentive listening sessions and is a bit overwhelming upon first listen. Which is a good thing, no, it's great, awesome.
This is an album to dive deep into.
I take off my hat and bow to the band. This is a masterpiece that leaves me in awe.