Formulaic future bass and trap
In his second effort after 2014s Void, the trap and bass producer puts out almost an hour of music that is bland and reminiscent of many of RL Grime’s contemporaries. Most of Nova feels like it has been released before, under a different name, because of how many recording artists are producing similar-sounding music. The same repetitive themes present in many other albums lead to this album’s demise.
Most of the album’s downsides come in the guest performances present on a majority of tracks. A good majority of the combinations between the vocalists, or between Grime’s production and the featured artist, don’t have good chemistry. Joji and Chief Keef came together on “OMG” to deliver a sexually charged performance on what may have been the album’s least sexy song. Joji’s lyrical content was questionable and somewhat boring, while Chief Keef delivered unmemorable bars that did nothing to progress the song. Likewise, “UCLA” featured abrasive vocals from rapper 24hrs that did not compliment the maxed-out production. It’s likely 24hrs could have benefited from a different beat on this track (or even better mixing), but his vocals and Grime’s production were not meant to be together on this song.
Over-saturated instrumentation for the sake of adding on instrumentation is another downside for Nova. “Pressure,” which sounds promising with a minimalist, Suicide-inspired bass riff at the start, loses its luster and potential when Grime adds almost every possible instrument onto the riff. The song becomes unnecessarily larger-than life, and the excessive production devalues the final result and tarnishes what could have been the best song on this project.
One of the album’s only saving graces is the interlude track “Run For Your Life,” which stood out from the other 14 tracks on the album thanks to harp-centric production that gives the song an ethereal ambiance, before transitioning into what is an uplifting trance with drum machines rhythms that suits the harp-like instrumentation. Compared to other tracks like “Shine” and “Rainer,” with an almost robotic composition, “Run For Your Life” is much more natural and fluid in its production.
Another saving grace is opening track “Feel Free,” with a somewhat surprising bait-and-switch that deviates from what was going to be a standard, repetitive beat and the eventual bass drop that follows by taking a harsher sonic approach. Even then, the track has a myriad of overproduced, unoriginal pop influences that would go on to foreshadow the rest of the album with carbon copy after carbon copy of the almost-formulaic approach to electronic music production.
Nova, when broken down to the bare essence of what it represents, is disappointingly predictable. There are glimpses of hope where Grime can go outside the box, but this is, unfortunately, a paint-by-numbers album.