People love to hype up new musical acts with the promise that “You’ve never heard anything like this!” The descriptor “game-changer” used to actually mean something, and games used to get changed — unfortunately, hyperbole is the enemy of progress, so true game-changers are falling by the wayside. Thankfully, The Nylon Admirals aren’t spring chickens and their can-do approach to recording experimental pop-electronica might just be the thing that does finally change the game — and if not, it’ll certainly help contemporary music at least beat a few levels.
Handbags, the second release from The Nylon Admirals following their debut LP Drama, is almost certainly unlike anything you’ve ever heard. You can protest, and maybe you are the one guy who listens to ambient space-electronica adorned with Opera and Nintendo chiptune flourishes, but for most, this is a whole new level of production. Personally, I can’t recall the last album I heard that featured a Don LaFontaine impersonator opening the project with “In a world…” but I digress. Everything on display from The Nylon Admirals’ arsenal is worth applauding, as the duo seemingly throws just about every trick they have up their sleeves towards the wall, effectively breaking down the wall and building their own.
Songs such as “Sono Binario,” which features the aforementioned chiptune space opera, put Handbags so above anything being released in the same bare-bones description of a genre, electronic, that it hurts. “Guillotine” is a wonderful synth-driven track that feels ripped out of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, and that’s when it dawns on me — more or less every song on this project would be at home in one movie or another. The anime-intro stylings of “Morgunsár” bring in guitar chords on top of heavenly chords and angelic choirs before a guitar solo erupts to close the track out.
Much in the style of their 2020 album Drama, The Nylon Admirals send audiences back into the world with a cover on their mind, using Mike Oldfield’s ambitious “Orabidoo” as the cinch for Handbags. Covering a good deal of ground in its thirteen minutes of airtime, the bewildering choice of using such a demanding song as the closer for an already ambitious album grows clearer with every passing second.
Grappling with a wide variety of segments, instrument breaks, and fizzling out into a brilliant send-off by way of female vocals, The Nylon Admirals are trying their hand at finding their own Abbey Road suite — just as the reprieve of “Her Majesty” sent Beatlemaniacs careening into the world, “Orabidoo” gives those unfamiliar with the song and band a way to tidy themselves before exiting the theater that the band has created, more or less. It’s a great way to bring things together, and an even smarter tactic to quell anticipation for whatever might be next. The Nylon Admirals are in their Hollywood era, and sequels take time; the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been for the duo, but the payoff is far more enticing when there’s this much money on the table.