Nic Sanderson – Eater EP

With uncontrollably crunchy production and biting guitar licks, it was an apt decision for Nic Sanderson to name his latest EP Eater.  Since 2017’s excellent Blurry Being, Sanderson has been a force of high-energy indie punk with a pop edge, known for his howling guitars, rapid drumming, and the sort of reckless abandon for tradition and convention that makes a new artist attractive. Of course, this is a double-edged sword – the more risks you take, the more chance there is of something falling flat.

In this context, the new Eater EP is an impressive roadmap into the functionality of experimentation. Opening track “The Yawning Gap” greets the listener with powerful drums and Pavement-level erraticism from the bass and guitar. The song flirts with multiple different flavors of indie-rock, dancing between The Walkmen-esque order and proper Sonic Youth disruption and chaos. Nic seems to be putting his voice through some sort of chorus processor that, while sonically interesting, does obscure his lyrics from being decipherable at any point in the song. This doesn’t hold the song back as much as Nic’s unconfident vocal delivery, nervously treading on the key of the track like a trapeze artist. Moments of confidence and clarity, like the vocal harmonies present in the chorus, keep the track afloat and give the EP a signature edge that is wholly distinct to Sanderson.

Other tracks, like “Kid Sister” and “Real Simple” approach a much more indie-pop inspired label while keeping an air of melodrama. The EP’s production makes certain harsh transients stand out in the mix (like a piercing guitar and crash that occurs sporadically through “Real Simple”) but can also open the song up to beautiful and impactful moments, such as the expression of loneliness revealed in Nic’s voice alone over a melancholy bass. Eater is full of little trades like these, various instances of truly captivating music in exchange for sonic effects that don’t pan out.

“Eater Jr” is the song on the EP most easily aligned with pop, featuring a catchy, distinct chorus among a cacophony of instruments. In truth, however, it sounds more like early 2000s Interpol than Paramore, marrying bright synths with lo-fi garage-rock. The production falters here, creating a wall of sound too thick to differentiate many of the sounds happening. Several melodic elements, including a faint, distant piano are hidden behind the shivering guitars and pounding drums, which is disappointing given the poppy attributes of the track. Sanderson’s vocals, though discernable in melody at the chorus, still float obscured in the wash of sound. Despite these obscured elements, the song’s instrumentation is enough to build to an effective emotional climax, highlighting Sanderson’s skill for building compelling structure over sonic clarity.

The EP reaches its peak with “Snow Stand”, an intense, imposing track that insists on being danceable while maintaining punk influences. The roaring guitars have an interesting attack and release arrangement, like flashing lights from oncoming traffic. This effect is a refreshing break from the otherwise wall of sound going on throughout the EP. There’s a blend of hopeful and desperate energy in the instrumental, a bold combination that leads to the EP’s most effective blend of tension and character.

Eater is a great and interesting EP marred by some issues in performance and production but charmed by stellar arrangements and impactful emotional climaxes. If Sanderson puts as much energy into the sonic coherence of his songs as he does the structure, his already distinct sound will carry him far.

Pros:

  • Inventive and engaging song structure
  • Exciting emotional conclusions
  • Satisfying pacing

Cons:

  • Poor vocal delivery/mix
  • Production leaves certain elements muffled and obscured, while other points are too harsh

Listen here! Leave a comment below with your thoughts about Nic Sanderson’s new EP.

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