postcards from new zealand – Nin-an-ak Review

What does New Zealand have to do with Ancient Sumeria? Not a damn thing, but then again, the Brits didn’t play much of a role in the conquests of Alexander the Great and no one batted an eye when Maiden wrote a track about him. So the subject of choice for Nin-an-ak, an ancient Sumerian goddess of kink and war, doesn’t require much justification. Not as much as the name postcards from new zealand, anyway, nor their preference for not using capitals. And definitely not as much as the genre this promo came tagged with: post-sumerian-chamber-death-prog-core. But seeing as I am here in a reviewing capacity, and I support calling people what they want to be called, I will refrain from using capitals from here on out, and i will make a serious attempt at dissecting and digesting the entirety of that lengthy genre tag in relation to the music.

to be fair, the subject matter is not all that impactful upon the music in the first place, as postcards from new zealand is an instrumental band. but they certainly succeed in sketching ancient civilizations with their music, employing everything from a string quartet to a sarangi to set the mood and thicken the atmosphere. microdosages of dissonance in this instrumental setup create an unheimlich mood that reminds me strongly of the now defunct sleepytime gorilla museum or its posthumous offspring free salamander exhibit. this ambience is by far the strongest feature of nin-an-ak, and on that basis of that alone i could see this band doing quite well on roadburn or a similarly ‘third eye wide open’ type of festival.

i just wish there were more to the music itself, though. for all the flavor and texture contained here, there is rather little to actually chew on. i am well aware that not every album requires oodles of melodic hooks and riffs out the wazoo, but this feels more like 40 years in the desert with nary an oasis in sight. here and there across the running time, “ištar” in particular, more electric instrumentation is employed to justify the ‘death’ part of ‘post-sumerian-chamber-death-prog-core,’ and these passages are the sole source of hooks across nearly 40 minutes of music, but they interrupt the haunting ambiance instead of supporting and elevating it, and they’re not particularly inspiring on their own. the more ambiance, the less structural integrity the album holds. build-ups often don’t really go anywhere, droning on or fading away without payoff, instruments lazily wafting into frame or slinking away without much purpose.

this is the central conundrum of nin-an-ak. the general aimlessness is my biggest gripe with the music, and it’s likely completely intentional and possibly the point. and i must admit that the atmosphere does linger when the album has finished. i can still see the shadows of sumerian demons creeping in the shadows. but while it is playing, it is a monumental task to actually keep my attention on the music, even when i have taken my add medication. i don’t mind drifting about, as long as i feel like i am drifting somewhere. with no arc, no flow of tension and release, i don’t feel that way, and hitting a few rocks that stop the drift but take me out of the experience don’t make the journey more pleasant.

i know there’s an audience for deeply atmospheric music with no hand holding. i can practically feel thus spake salivating down my neck as i type this review. and when it comes to setting the mood and layering the ambiance, postcards from new zealand have their act down. but without any tether, any interest nin-an-ak can summon gradually diminishes, blowing away like a veil of sand in the sumerian desert, soon forgotten like its namesake goddess. if these songwriting woes are fixed, i would gladly indulge in more post-sumerian-chamber-death-prog-core, but this one i cannot recommend as more than a mood piece for ambient enthusiasts.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 8th, 2022

« »