There Is Another Way by NUKLI–Album Review
There Is Another Way by NUKLI–Album Review
For the first time in over twenty years, the British prog-rock band NUKLI has released a new studio album, There is Another Way. The album is a nostalgic trip to the past, offering listeners a mixture of psychedelia, progressive rock, blues, and jazz, with raga rock flavoring. This album is, both for better and for worse, a nostalgia trip. Psychedelic rock and jam band fans will enjoy this, but album is unlikely to make any major waves outside of these circles. The music on this album is not bad by any means, but it is also not great and it isn’t going to stand out among the countless other generic psychedelic and jam bands out there. This is an album that is best enjoyed as trippy background music.
NUKLI is a band born out of the 80s free festival and squat scene in England. This background has informed their style and their career. Like many jam bands, their focus has never been on conventionally recording music in the studio. This is only their second studio release in their long career, alongside many live and semi-live recordings in various styles. The band has been playing together on and off for almost thirty years through various lineups. They released this record before the pandemic hit, but because of lockdowns they have not been able to perform or promote the album until now.
One of NUKLI’s innovations back in the day was that they pioneered the art of sampling in the underground music scene.
Tracks on There is Another Way and other releases by NUKLI tend to start with samples from movies, TV shows, and news programs. The album itself is largely instrumental, with occasional lyrics interspersed throughout the songs. The album opens with “Live Life Love”, a long track with a strong blues groove and heavily flanged guitar. This track is mostly about building an atmosphere and was clearly born out of an extended jam session, with the band noodling between several sometimes-disjointed sections.
The next song, “Free Festival”, is much more gripping. This Syd Barret-esque psychedelic romp harkens back to when the band was cutting their teeth in England’s free festival scene of the 1980s. As a popular underground band on the festival scene, they released Psychelektra Trip Projekta, Side Effects, Number Nine, and At Last!
Listeners exploring NUKLI’s music for the first time would be better served by checking out the band’s live/rehearsal material from the 80s and 90s
One of NUKLI’s innovations back in the day was that they pioneered the art of sampling in the underground music scene. According to NUKLI’s Bandcamp page, their keyboardist Eric created their first release (Psychelektra Trip Projekta, 1983) by “disappearing into his headphones for days on end…[and] bouncing between tape recorders using the pause button.” The band notes that these sounds have become common in the era of digital sampling, but Eric was breaking ground by doing this the hard way in 1983. Sampling has been a staple of the band’s sound ever since, and some of the most interesting moments on this album come from the various samples that are played at the beginning of songs. Particularly interesting samples include what appears to be a news recording of a stock market crash at the beginning of “Sometimes”, and the science fiction dialogue at the beginning of “Mind Over Matter”.
In fact, “Mind Over Matter” might be the most interesting song on the entire album. This is probably the most rocking track on the album and feels like the live recordings that made NUKLI popular in the psychedelic underground. This heavy, blues-groove song livens up the album and is the closest thing the album has to a lead single.
NUKLI changes things up on “Nomadik Trybes”, a song that gives the listener a break from the blues jam band sound. This song is no less generic, but it has a raga feel that makes this song stand out more than any of the other songs on this album.
There Is Another Way is a decent yet generic album by a band that is clearly more interested in making music on stage than in the studio. There are no glaring problems with the album, but there is also little to get new listeners excited about the band. Listeners exploring NUKLI’s music for the first time would be better served by checking out the band’s live/rehearsal material from the 80s and 90s (I found At Last! From 1989 and Mushroom Bungalow Music from 1993 to be particularly interesting). There Is Another Way is easy listening music for people who are cool enough to do acid. This is decent background music to tap your foot to, but it is unlikely to make you get up and dance.