“Real Clothes started as a one-time project formed by Nico Fox in her room in 2013.” From there, the world gained a powerhouse artist.
In college, Nico jump-started her musical career by making DJ mixes and joining the group, Laos, from Richmond, Virginia. After recieving positive feedback on her track for the Hi Hi Whoopee compilation in 2014, Nico released the double album, Show Me Your Mountains (Day) / Object-Oriented (Night). The project included “Appalachian folk covers and experimental electronic pieces with themes ranging from lost love, addiction, abandonment, and romance.”
Nico continued her career under the name Tessellations with the release of an indie rock EP, Queen of Dasies, on Valentine’s Day in 2014 with the assistance of session musicians. “June and July of 2015 brought the singles, ‘Ginger’ and ‘Battle Hymn,'” which were then “reworked into the tracks, ‘Aidanelys: Parts 1 and 2’ on the album, Modulation, in 2016…. This was the beginning of carving a niche for her own sound.”
Now, Nico is back with a new album, Apotheosis, which “is the culmination of several years” of work…. It is a concept album [in which] I am trying to find a way to process the world before me…. I struggle with how we treat one another, the repetitiveness of human nature, the immense sadness and cruelty of warfare, imminent apocalypse, and how frivolous heartbreak feels amongst [it all].”
“Cassandra X The Static” begins the album with echoing, ethereal vocals. The lack of background at the start of the song gives it a free-flowing, experimental feeling. Suddenly, the track explodes with sound: Dark, tense electronic tones stretch under and over the vocals, weaving a captivating web of power and barely-restrained energy. “Cassandra X The Static” is one of the most explosive first tracks I have seen, and a bold move that definitely paid off for Apotheosis.
“The Year of Midnight Honey” also begins quietly, this time with a trickling piano line that leads us into flowing vocals. Dark and deep, Nico’s dripping-honey voice does make some lyrics hard to understand, but the musical quality of the track itself makes up for it tenfold. The strong beat behind the vocals and electronic melodies gives the track a feeling of movement and creates an overall aesthetic of dark dance music. This track wouldn’t be out of place as the backing track for a moment of great tension in a television show or movie.
The third song of the album is “Agnus Dei (The Ballad of Erzuile Freda).” It fits well with the tracks before it thanks to Nico’s naked, stretching vocals and hauntingly creative lyrics such as, “The sound of a smile is violence” that engage the senses and the mind in unique storytelling. The song flows well as a whole, and Nico’s style definitely works for her, but it would be interesting to see something a little different as the album progresses so Nico can show us the full range of her talent.
“Girl” gives a little bit of the difference that I’m looking for in the instrumentals, but still features drawn-out vocals. While this contrast is auditorily interesting, the track doesn’t feel fully developed at its 1:48 running time, despite how busy it is. It almost feels like a longer song is compressed into an array of sound effects, cramping its potential in a way that doesn’t fully appeal to me like Nico’s other work. While “Girl” was a bold choice much like “Cassandra X The Static,” it doesn’t work as flawlessly.
“Anodyne (Playing the Ghost)” is exactly what I was looking for in terms of a switch-up. While it has a lighter feel, it also features a fresh aesthetic that brings the backing track into the forefront more. It accomplishes the fullness that “Girl” tried for with an intriguing mix of electronic effects and organic sounds. Although “Anodyne (Playing the Ghost)” isn’t my stand-out track of Apotheosis, it is a great turning point for the style of the album to flow between different aesthetics.
The tropical percussion of “Recursion” combined with its electronic dial tones creates a strangely amazing rub for the track. Unfortunately, the track relies a bit too heavily on the intrigue of these elements: At a 3:04 running time, “Recursion” needs to switch things up more within itself to keep things interesting. The bits of white space that were included were utilized well, but either vocals, differing patterns, or more white space is necessary to take this track from an interlude that I would likely skip over next time to a song I could enjoy again and again.
“Scheherazade (Cinema)” also has great rub in a way that makes it feel very much like a dance track at a cool, off-beat club. The vocals tie the song back to those preceding it, but the funky electronic instrumentals are truly the star of this show. One of my favorites for its completely unique feel, this song definitely stands out in just the way I was looking for. While it still remains cohesive to the album as a whole, “Scheherazade (Cinema)” takes the talent Nico has shown in a direction unlike anything I have heard before.
“Roses” continues the momentum through the last portion of the album. The electronic beats, swishes, and shakes create interesting rhythms and an undeniable energy through the entirety of the track. Although it does get repetitive like “Recursion,” “Roses” is much more dynamic in its shifts through each section, and is still fun to listen to without vocals. While the addition of vocals wouldn’t be such a bad thing, and could definitely bring “Roses” to the next level, as it stands now, the track is a spirited reminder of Nico’s DJ past.
“Weight of the Wind” brings back the more traditional sound of the beginning of Apotheosis. The full-circle feel suits the album, showing both growth, but rooted nature in what works well for Nico: Flowing vocals, light backing, and dramatic moments. Although the track is on the shorter side at 2:40, it carries weight in its return to the darker aesthetic and poetic lyrics: “And I will never forget you / How do you sleep at night / Weight of the wind / I loved you for nothing / The weight of the wind….”
“Deformer” mirrors the drama that “Cassandra X The Static” began Apotheosis with. Its vampiric, stuttering backing track brings a melodramatic feel to the final track of the album, proving once and for all that Nico Fox isn;t afraid to just go for it when it comes to music. With the addition of spoken word—”I’ll find her and bring her home / I promise.”— and rising tension in the percussion, “Deformer” feels like its own production as well as a climatic end to Apotheosis.
Apotheosis is set for release on all major streaming platforms on August 9, 2019. So excited that you can’t wait that long? Pre-order it on Amazon and you’ll have it the second it arrives!
In the meantime, Real Clothes plays in New York a few times a month, with her next show at The Bowery Electric on September 25, 2019.
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***Like the majority of my reviews, a submission fee was charged for this post.***