Sophia, the debut EP from Chicago instrumental quartet Naga is a banger and the kind of release you would expect from a Chicago instrumental math rock band, and that’s a good thing. The songs have a dark, brooding element to them reminiscent to Ativin and June of 44, which in a way is a signature element of classic Midwest math rock and it’s great to hear that being brought back by a contemporary Midwest band.
The band goes a great job of showcasing dynamics, and the dynamic play early on in the opening track ‘Ishmael’ immediately invokes influences and feelings of bands like Rodan, Hurl, Dianogah, and C-Clamp. They hit their stride in the next two tracks, ‘Calvary’ and ‘Ivory Tower’ and create catchy arrangements of melodic lead guitar that lead the listener down a meandering path that just when you think you can expect what’s coming next guitarists Richard Park and Nick Poplawski have no problem turning on the distortion and getting heavy and driving songs into entirely different directions. It’s the heavy moments on Sophia, when they happen like on ‘An Even Colder War’ that sets Naga apart from other contemporary guitar tapping based math rock and more bands should follow suit.
It should also be noted that the production on Sophia sounds great, and to properly experience the music is to crank it on your stereo. It was recorded at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio Studios by none other than Greg Norman, whose other 2016 recording credits include TTNG‘s Disappointment Island and Russian Circles new album Guidance. Sophia leaves an interesting blueprint of where the band can go from here, and if Naga isn’t a Chicago band you were familiar with before they should be one you know now.
math rock, instrumental, tappity-tap, angularity, metal, punk, post rock