The enigmatic New York-based act NIHITI does nothing to help itself out from a visual or promotional standpoint in the wake of witch house’s explosion and demise. They perform shows shrouded completely in darkness, with only visual projections offering any sort of recognizability to the members involved. Their website is a collection of links that go nowhere except to pictures of hazy, sigil-heavy scenes. The only nameable member is a mastermind who apparently goes by the name Dragan Otasevic. Most of this sounds very familiar.
Yet, the well-worn “mysterious guy” aura that NIHITI projects actually does them massive favors on For Ostland, a record that splits its time between woozy ambient soundscapes, low-end heavy thumpers, and noise excursions. The fact that its all being guided by unseen sets of hands imbues it with an added sense of spontaneity, so when jarring changes do occur, as they do in the transition between the lovely bleeps and guitar meanderings of “Eisenbahnstrasse, January 1st 1946” to the industrial clang of “My Fantasy Has Gone Too Far” about halfway through the album, the effect is far more disturbing and visceral. It’s mainly an album of captured moments, some serene, others harrowing. For every meditative bass throb/breathy hum like “Ankhmazes,” there’s something like the closing loop of “Not These Demons Again,” which doesn’t seem to be going anywhere as much as it spirals into eternity, seemingly left on at a murder scene.
NIHITI establishes these moods so well, that unfortunately, when they actually decide to reveal themselves as breathing humans who actually sing, the change in tone isn’t just jarring, it’s almost unpleasantly distracting. Look no further than “Sun Shatterer.” Starting with a bed of slowly bubbling menace and growing guitar squalls, a lazy four-on-the-floor dance thud comes in, and all of a sudden its unflattering, crowd-sourced-idea-of-goth time. It’s not like they aren’t capable of producing quality songs with vocals. The cover of Marissa Nadler’s “Ghosts And Lovers,” which finds the song’s chorus repeated ad inifnitum, is a beautifully haunting piece, the repetition and intensifying instrumental working off of each other in great ways, producing a track that feels like getting caught in a bitter wind storm that just gets worse and worse.
There is enough material on For Ostland to make it worth diving into multiple times, to search for new noises, or to reconsider what instrument or human voice might be making a noise that particularly struck the ear upon first listen. Yet, a tentativeness still remains over the whole proceedings, a compulsive need to cover all of the bases, that prevent it from being a truly immersive, demanding experience.