You may be familiar with the Nine Inch Nails drummer (and sometimes guitarist) Jerome Dillon. NearLY is Dillon's new project inspired by some recurring nightmares that he had for over six years (starting during his tour with NIN in 1999). First off, don't expect anything like Nine Inch Nails whatsoever. NearLY is a completely different entity.
Dillon is responsible for much of the instrumentation on the album. He plays pretty much everything from piano to electric and acoustic guitars, drums, percussion, dobro, ukulele, and Mellotrons; and he also handles the programming, ambience, and string arrangements. He's supported by a rich array of guests, including the amazing female and male vocalists Claudia Sarne and Greg Dulli respectively (it's mostly Sarne singing though). The outstanding violin contribution of Petra Haden is also worthy of mention.
Most of the songs are within the four-minute range, with some clocking in at less than two minutes. The music is in the post-rock mold focusing on minimalistic soundscapes that are highlighted by lots of non-metal instruments such as cellos, violas, and violins as well as wide percussive elements. Whilst Dillon performs most instruments, he chose to enlist the amazing vocal skills of Claudia Sarne whose angelic, fragile voice fits the pieces perfectly. After a dense start with various strings that help set the mood, Sarne's vocals float softly over Dillon's heavily reverb-induced acoustic guitars, eerie rhythms and cellos on "Straight to Nowhere". However, the following track "All is Lost" has an even more melancholic feel to it that recalls the earlier Dead Can Dance albums with live drums (there is plenty of programmed beats on the album as well). The heavy ambience during the intro of "Liars Day" evokes the dense atmospherics on Tool's "Flood" off of Undertow. It's a song with sparse keys and a densely atmospheric undercurrent we mostly hear on Ulver's soundtrack albums.
"Prins Hendrik" and "Mary Vincent" are two songs that are not only musically riveting but lyrically as well. The theme of loss of innocence is perfectly portrayed by Sarne's ghostly vocals on the former (complete with a distant guitar tapestry), while the Mellotron-inserted "Mary Vincent" was inspired by a kidnapped girl who was raped and murdered violently at the age of sixteen. "Step into the Light", originally a song by Afghan Whigs, features both Claudia Sarne and the tune's original singer Greg Dulli. And it's perhaps the most emotional cut on the album along with the brief instrumental "Blackwing" whose piano work is right up there with Sigur Ros' () masterpiece; or the multi-textured soundscapes heard on "Up in the Trees" (much like something I'd expect from Ulver frontman Garm). "Tributary" goes back to trippy and electronic beats that underlie a deep acoustic guitar sound. A bit like later day The Gathering, the song is filled with sounds fabricated from Dillon's dreams. "Release", perhaps the most fitting title, is the album's final track: sporadic throbs, numbing guitar drills, and ethereal production.
Two months ago, when I first heard Reminder, I thought it was barely mediocre. Now, after patient repeat listens, I'm happy I could reach into its depths and discover Dillon's amazing skill for atmosphere and melody. I would recommend NearLY moreso to fans of Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Dead Can Dance, Ulver and No-Man rather than Nine Inch Nails.
- One Day I Was Gone
- Straight to Nowhere
- All is Lost
- Liars Day
- Prins Hendrik
- Mary Vincent
- Step into the Light
- Up in the Trees