Nilüfer Yanya – ‘Painless’ review: grunge-inflected album soars when she reaches full-pelt

On her second full-length, the artist focuses on Nirvana-style murk and jerky, Bloc Party style post-punk, with frequent glimmers of brilliance

I’m going nowhere” sings Nilüfer Yanya on ‘Stabilise’– her determination to stand still undermined by spiny guitars that surge restlessly forward. Recalling ‘Silent Alarm’-era Bloc Party and the relentless pulse of drum’n’bass in equal measures, there’s a driving urgency to the artist’s second record, despite its explorations of feeling rooted in a thought or moment and being unable to escape it. In contrast to the smouldering down-tempo feel of Yanya’s debut ‘Miss Universe’ ‘Painless’ draws on the momentum of that record’s driving cuts, ‘In Your Head’ and ‘Tears’ – and it’s mostly refreshing to hear the artist switching gears.

After the singer initially emerged with a series of stunning and minimal acoustic demos, 2019’s ‘Miss Universe’ stood out for its eclectic blending of sounds. “She hops between genres,” we wrote at the time, “trying them on for a song or two, before shrugging them off and picking up something else.”

Here, meanwhile, she keeps a closer focus on the more shadowy end of the spectrum, minor chords tumbling over each other on the beautifully spindly ‘Midnight Sun’. Channelling the post-hardcore band Slint and the skittering intricacies of Radiohead, there’s a pure grinning release when that giant final chorus kicks in:You’re my best machine, you’re my midnight sun, always I did it for you,” Yanya sings, head thrown back.

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Though these songs are gloomier-sounding, and flecked with fuzzy hints of grunge, there’s still an inherent sense of fun – though sometimes you’re left wishing Yanya would push it much further. The post-punky ‘Belong With You’, Yanya has said, is inspired by the “pop, early noughties vibe” of tATu’s ‘All The Things She Said’, but it’s deliciously biting lyrics (“I don’t even like you, bitch”) and gleeful hints of ‘00s Eurodance reverb don’t quite manage to emerge from the impenetrable, slightly repetitive murk found in tracks like ‘Trouble’, ‘Try’, ‘Shameless’ and ‘Company’.

Elsewhere, meanwhile, Yanya is unstoppable: standout ‘Another life’ recalls the intricate power-pop of The Japanese House while opener ‘The Dealer’ buzzes and thrashes atop dance beat made raw and human. Delivering each line with a snarl, ‘L/R’ melts Nirvana’s stripped-back rock with humming bursts of flutey synths – it’s a brilliantly deadpan ode to skinny-dipping. ‘The Mystic’ meanwhile is up there with her greatest work, both skittering with unease and soaring to new heights at the same time. Even if ‘Painless’ occasionally settles into a consistent, thudding groove at times, when Yanya goes full pelt, she’s at her very best.

Details

Release date: March 4

Release Label: ATO

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