Rachika Nayar is sinister, playful, traumatic, ecstatic — often all in the course of the same song. Such an extreme range of emotions might be disjointed in someone else’s hands, but Nayar makes all those feelings part of the same continuum. Hers is music you play late at night, or early in the morning — when you’re just tired or wired enough to start to disassociate, when your mind is eager to wander and think about everything and nothing at the same time.
The Brooklyn-based composer makes ambient soundscapes that feel animated and alive. Nayar’s 2021 debut Our Hands Against The Dusk was built around her subtle but impressive guitar-playing, but you’d be forgiven if you didn’t even realize it was a guitar on first pass. She makes the instrument sound otherworldly, oddly beautiful and frequently synthetic. “I like when electronic music feels organic,” she said in an interview back when that album came out. “I think more ‘pop’ genres like folk or emo often deal with the realities of the more immediate world, while ambient and experiment kinda reside in the more abstracted realms of the pre-verbal or subconscious, or even spiritual.”
Nayar’s music acts as a bridge between ideas both concrete and abstract; she slips between tenuous and more immediate forms of expression. On her follow-up Fragments EP, she stripped back a lot of the sonic manipulation that appeared on her first album and let those more traditional guitar sounds breathe. But she’s back to her old tricks on the magnificent Heaven Come Crashing, and she’s brought some new magic to the table this time around as well. Heaven Come Crashing leans toward the dancefloor more than her debut did. Nayar incorporates expansive, celestial synths, and structures her songs so that there are more sweat-inducing breakdowns and euphoric movements.
She explained that the album is about exploring the theatrical side of herself. “I both love and feel so wary of melodrama, because its entire premise is to be uncritical,” she said in a statement. “Taking your most massive emotions at face-value feels so fraught when they partly originate with structures you can’t control, with structures you maybe even feel at war with.” Dramatically enough, her Bandcamp description for the album also includes a quote from the philosopher Barthes: “Fantasy is scenario, but a scenario in bits and pieces — always very brief, just a glimmer of the narrative of desire.”
Each song represents a push and pull between rationality and irrationality; Nayar comes at herself from both ends and meets somewhere in the messy, complicated middle. Nowhere is a scenario like that more fully realized than the album’s astounding title track, which starts off with a few minutes yearning guitar tendrils that suddenly explode into a dazzling display of maximalist glee. Journeys like that are common on Heaven Come Crashing, though. Take the 10-minute “Tetramorph,” where muddled pulses give way to an ominous pounding drone that then transforms into a sputtering guitar twinkle that could be mistaken for post-rock. Or the end of “Death & Limerence,” which ends on a distant melody that sounds like a song blaring from a few doors down, or what I imagine the walls of a club would hear if they grew ears. Or “Nausea,” a collision of chattering beats and snaking guitars that is positively intoxicating.
Nayar has said that she typically writes her songs in compulsive bursts. When you think about something for so long and so often, sometimes when it comes time to get it down, it just sort of spills out. And when something isn’t working, it can be an immensely frustrating but fascinating process to try and figure out why it’s not coming together. In an illuminating conversation with her friend and collaborator Maria BC (whose voice pops up throughout this album), Nayar talked about how she goes about naming her compositions, which she eventually ties into how the songs come together in the first place.
“Whenever I finish the song, I kind of look back through all of that and there will just be something that jumps out at me, and I almost never have an articulable explanation or any clarification I can really give about why that connection is there,” she said. “But it always feels really visceral to me. Which is like the process of writing the song — it’s never something verbalized, but something deeply felt, you know?” The songs on Heaven Come Crashing are certainly deeply felt, and they’re also endlessly intriguing — instinctive but precise.
Heaven Come Crashing is out 8/26 via NNA Tapes.
Other albums of note out this week:
• Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s Let’s Turn It Into A Sound
• Julia Jacklin’s PRE PLEASURE
• Stella Donnelly’s Flood
• Teen Suicide’s honeybee table at the butterfly feast
• Bret McKenzie’s Songs Without Jokes
• JID’s The Forever Story
• Muse’s Will Of The People
• Roc Marciano & The Alchemist’s The Elephant Man’s Bones
• Benoit & Sergio’s Lost Decade
• Sports Team’s Gulp!
• Pianos Become The Teeth’s Drift
• Dendrons’ 5-3-8
• Pantha du Prince’s Garden Gala
• Diamanda Galás’ Broken Gargoyles
• Ezra Furman’s All Of Us Flames
• Thoughtcrimes’ Altered Pasts
• Machine Head’s Of Kingdom And Crown
• Chris Forsyth’s Evolution Here We Come
• Meechy Darko’s Gothic Luxury
• Eyedress’ Full Time Lover
• Gryphon Rue’s A Spirit Appears To A Pair Of Lovers
• JJULIUS’ VOL. 2
• Butch Walker’s Butch Walker As… Glenn
• Meyhem Lauren & Daringer’s Black Vladimir
• blackbear’s in loving memory
• TWICE’s Between 1&2
• DJ Khaled’s God Did
• Blondie’s Against The Odds: 1974-1982 box set
• Selena’s Moonchild Mixes
• Anitta’s Versions Of Me deluxe edition
• Regina Spektor’s remastered 11:11
• Valerie June’s Under Cover EP
• FUR’s Oldies & Goldies EP