The admittedly flamboyant but extraordinarily fitting term for Melbourne-based Hawaii94 aka Lee Nania’s mini album RE@L1TY (2012) could be summarized as technicolor Glow-Fi, even in such cases where readers and listeners alike despise such superfluously posh genre creations. The threshold to blissful salvation however is crossed time and again on that work, so much so that it is one of my all-time favorite works of music ever created. Instantly hooked, hopelessly lost, but still sane enough to write another in-depth review of the artist, I have chosen the five-track EP Nightvision, released in 2014 on the French Stellar Kinematics label in February 2014. Available to purchase and stream at Bandcamp, the aforementioned Glow-Fi approached is toned down and – according to Lee Nania’s own description – replaced with a synthesis called Coldwave. Still inherently catchy and incandescently aglow, Nightvision honors its own title and lets the darkness in. It is as close to a cliché as can be to only reduce the night to recondite darkness, murky nullspaces, lost souls wandering in the shadows. In short: Hawaii94’s Nightvision EP is nothing like this. There are electric guitars, translucent lava synths and cowbell undulations alright, but the tone sequences in major leave enough room for nostalgia and melancholy to settle in and alter the reception respectively. Here is a closer inspection of its differing characteristic traits.


The opener is called Runaway, and it is also the very tune where Hawaii94 fathoms a certain eclecticism, an experimental verve that hasn’t been presented by him heretofore. Nania samples his way through the hatched pericarp, launching his caproic gateway with a fusillade of chopped children’s choir, square lead synth carpets and galactic plasticizer spirals. Never dark per se, the Melbourne-based artist further illumines the majesty of the track via his own reverberated trademark vocals and gorgeous euphonious square lead bleeps. The apocryphal yet hauntingly viscoelastic choir accompanies the vocal strata, melancholy is in the air, and despite the pressing title, a certain mellowness is almost tangible, the same goes for the polyphonic scrimshaws. Runaway is definitely no cajoling epiphany, as it is more akin to a retrojected epitaph, but what it lacks in ebullient carefreeness, it gains in fibrillar dichotomy. Not so on Fresh Blood. The second offering is eminently glazed with thickly wadded three-note Disco synths, vitreous cowbell pericarps, cool guitar riffs and whirling conglomerations of icicle flutes and electric pianos. Quavering synth-oid guitars, warm high-tone bass rivulets and a shrapnel of maraca-fueled parallax layers round off the arrangement. The percussion might seem like gimcrack, but lyrics such as "Take me back to yesterday," as Nania recalls, are not just a plea… they are a stage of life that is embroidered all over this EP.


Sliding Doors is up next and comes closest to the ecstatic euphoria Lee Nania is (also) known for. Launching as a cautious cotyledon full of helicoidal cosmos synths complete with fluttering polar lights, the straight club-compatible beat and Nania’s cannelure of echoey words feels like a night flight through fluorescent vestibules whose chorus is based on stupefyingly hyperpolished synth cataracts. The glissando, the rectilineal convulsions, the rhythmic protrusion of the electric guitar make this a cavernous but strikingly life-affirming joy. The echoey physiognomy, the reverb-alloyed gestalt curiously enough add plasticity and wideness the louder the volume is turned. Not only great for workout purposes, but also more than apt when a tunnel vision is nigh. The adjacent and mysterious 3797 absorbs the tempo and pours it into a Grime-oriented breakbeat chromaticity supercharged with clandestine electric sine buzzes, a reticulation of mucous guitar licks and a zoetropic arabesque of four-note bells. Laid-back and increasingly synth-driven, the Lee Nania’s fourth kaleidoscope – while haunting and inscrutably flimsy – allows room for space pad cascades and moments of albumin-hued rapture. The EP ends with a fast-paced critter called Apparition where Hawaii94 runs on all cylinders. In lieu of a soft opening phase, the soft breaks and quick rhythms are already intact, as is the variying five-note scheme of spectrally quavering square lead stacks. Rhizomatic glee and slick guitar undercurrents as well as spacy whistles and blips are the hydrazine of this piece, metalized sparks bounce amidst the interstices. As soon as it began, Apparition ends comparatively quickly, and while it is a memorable, somewhat aeriform tune alright, there is a certain weight embedded that asphyxiates a truly rapturous state of existence. This is indeed one ostensible intrinsic driving factor to consider within the boundaries of this EP.


The spirits are spectral, their alloy elysian: Nightvision is a strangely structured but ultimately succeeding embroidery of shady clefts and nutritious colors, the latter of which Hawaii94’s music is actually known for. The EP does not crush the mood, the opposite is the case, as glaring synths, coruscating percussion and mauve-colored beats swirl around Lee Nania’s convoluted vocals. The midtempo of most pieces coupled with the nostalgic remoteness, however, result in a hybrid superimposition of moods and forces that are both antagonistic. This is one of the markers that makes Nightvision so great and comparatively eclectic. The other reason is the artist’s fondness of superb riffs, be they realized on the guitar or stacked synthesizers. Rest assured all the time that Glo(w)-Fi polyhedrons meet Pop undercurrents and even a Disco ball or two. In-between these whirling entities, a soothing nucleus of Ambient is detectable, a tastefully antediluvian light that fills the gaps, serving as a bridge from darkness into neon-lit streets of consumerism and night life. With the Nightvision EP, Melbourne’s Hawaii94 has opened up his trademark sounds for carefully portentous appendixes, and this is a good sign. I am still more fond of his spectacular RE@L1TY mini album, but that is just because it is running on all cylinders harmony- and chord-wise. I can fully understand that such an approach not only diminishes the nocturnal aura… it crushes and annihilates it. And since this very scheme makes up the nuts and bolts of Nightvision, Nania has yet again created a densely layered, enormously luring stream of catchy crystals. Highly recommended!


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 394: Hawaii94 – Nightvision (2014). Originally published on Nov. 26, 2014 at AmbientExotica.com.