Ever since Bannerman’s bar sold its soul to Jagermeister in exchange for orange captain’s chairs, I’ve been skeptical of the authenticity of the place. Isn’t metal supposed to be anti-authority, anti-establishment? Fortunately, none of the pine sap-flavored libation invaded the concert space, a cramped vault where the stones above your head rattled along with the sub frequencies, threatened to come loose and crush you. How metal is that? I joined an eager crowd as guitarist Aidan Baker and bassist Leah Buckareff took the stage. Straddling them was a host of tabletop pedals and drum programmers. In contrast, the opening act, TILDE, splayed their musical devices across the floor, and thus had to expand and contract their bodies in order to articulate the songs. They writhed on the floor, kneeled as if in prayer, and stood ready for battle, an onstage audio engineer manipulating the band’s sound into a massive tsunami of distorted noise. My ears needed a break after about 45 minutes.
Nadja’s set was looking to be a more serene, controlled affair, although when I interviewed the group beforehand, they assured me that tonight was going to loud. For all my skepticism about the venue’s choice of sponsor, the sound quality was immaculate, and Nadja completely blew me away. The group do not perform using amplifiers, forgoing the traditional fetishization of analogue tone that is expected of guitarists for the versatility, frequency range, and uniqueness of each venue’s’ PA. Their set consisted of one long piece, followed another shorter, poppier number to serve as the encore. The music was slow, and the individual, long chords seemed to crash over the ones before them, creating a washing sensation. It was my first time experiencing such transcendental , heavy music, and I focused on the washing sensation of the deliberately lethargic, layered guitar, watching Baker’s hand move. Despite the incredible volume, his hands were very slight on the neck, gently tickling the strings.For anyone who has ever shied away from the aggression of metal, but enjoys ambient music and slow, sprawling ballads that recall waterfalls and mountain streams, Nadja is a live act not to miss.