One of the most innovative albums I have ever heard was Netra’s “Sørbyen” (2012), a bleak and atmospheric album with the unusual and effective inclusion of trip-hop. The urban street feel of that album features on the artwork of this one.
“Ingrats” is an oddball album. The short opening sequence sets the scene with its gloomy and jazzy tempo. The mood turns to violence with the harsh thrash black metal of “Everything’s Fine”. Everything sounds far from fine, judging by the screams. Menacing and distorted interludes, marked by deep piano sounds and a buzzing sounding as if a squadron of aeroplanes or bees is buzzing overhead, shout horror. “How hard can it be to get some peace of mind” sings a stricken voice, suggesting mental torment. The black metal supplies further suffocation. Then the melancholic keyboard, the steady trickle of trip hop and strange, unidentifiable sounds reinforce the gloomy air of torment. “Underneath My Words, the Ruin is Yours” is unimaginably bleak and grey. This album delves further and further into gloom and rainy, soulless city streets. The “songs” are short and different, but each presents a picture of hopelessness. “Live With It” is a classic song, an innovation in this strange world we are experiencing. As ever it is downtrodden. Then it is taken over by an electro-trance beat. The haunting whistle is sad and mysterious. It’s a grotesque, gloomy and shady world.
Now we hear the pouring rain. The pianist plays a sad tune. 46 seconds of “Infinite Boredom” covers the grey existence, which this album portrays. A fuzzy funeral march begins. Progress is slow and steady. It’s like a heartbeat but deliberately without a soul. As if this isn’t dark and depressing enough, a melancholic-sounding trumpet weighs in to this fearsome musical canvas. There’s a distinct black metalness about “Don’t Keep Me Waiting”. The drums trigger as if there’s a lack of control. But there is control, plenty of it, as this scene conjures up images of grey deserted streets, glistening only from recently fallen rain. The mood shifts as an electronic vibe strikes up. “A Genuinely Benevolent Man” has the air of a film soundtrack about it, but as ever it is full of melancholy before the atmosphere turns to one of violence, decay and hollowness. Musically it’s creative, with the picture developing in spite of the bleak façade. The electronic pattern continues but now it’s utterly sinister and menacing. “Paris or Me” conveys the threat but for once does not play with the mind. By contrast “Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve” starts suggestively, still wrapped in electronic waves but now with a nihilistic and regretful lyrical line. After the dark prognosis, both musical and lyrical presentations develop. This one is unusual in that it is more personal than most. I’m not so sure that fitted in so well. Personal touches don’t go with these soundscapes. What strikes me in general about Netra’s music is the impersonality. There are voices and spoken words on “Jusqu’au Boutiste” which follows but the person seems to be speaking to themselves as if we, the listener, is not involved, and in any case the black metal, solitary piano and symphonic piece, supported by the evocative monotony of the trip-hop, capture the sense of gloomy isolation. Violent black metal and electronic pulses combine to bring this non-conformist album to a close.
This isn’t an album of songs. It’s more a series of movements and passages. It is disjointed and without discernible flow, yet there is a consistency in the grey scenes of urban life, cold, rainy days and decay, which these passages depict. I wouldn’t have thought it possible that such bleakness could spark my imagination, but perhaps not as vividly as “Sørbyen” before it, “Ingrats” still painted nightmarish pictures impressively and implanted itself darkly in my head.
(8/10 Andrew Doherty)