Nokti is a five-piece ensemble hailing from Zagreb, Croatia and according to their bio they are “dedicated to the development of a new ‘state-of-the-art’ rock music.” While that is a high calling, they do succeed in creating a fantastic and challenging release with their EP Cockschmerzen, which came out last month. It is a harrowing trip of complex and abrasive music, certainly rock-oriented but unique in its formulation.

Sharing members with the avant-garde metal group Hesperian Death Horse, the band’s aesthetic is certainly original. They blend noise rock and postpunk in equal parts, building each composition up from an architecture of drum and bass, and then washing over the foundation with guitar, saxophone and synthesizer. There is nothing explicitly metal about the music here, but the sound palette is nonetheless harsh and relentless, while demonstrating a firm grasp of dynamics.

“Pijan Od Krvi” sets the stage. The drums and bass lock into a groove that is one part Dazzling Killmen and one part Kevin Martin’s God. Any other band attempting this sound would use a steady beat and repetitive bass line, but Nokti deploys a completely off-kilter groove and the bass wanders all over the place without ever quite losing the plot. The vocals echo with menace over the top, while guitar provides a wall of noise to complete the picture. It’s only a minute and a half long, but when the second song “Delta Kvadrant” arrives, its more restrained dynamics come as a bit of relief. But this piece, also quite short, possesses a ominous tone all it’s own. The inspiration here is more derived from PiL’s Flowers of Romance. Still, Nokti avoids conventional time signatures like the plague. The saxophone also makes its first appearance here, sounding like it’s playing at the end of a concrete tunnel.

“Zlatna Beba” sees the guitar and vocals step up to slightly more prominent roles. Take the first two tracks and add a touch of Big Black to get an idea of the sound. The one-minute “Igrice” nods a bit toward techno and industrial, but ultimately all is washed beneath a dub aesthetic. “Gestatten Sie” combines the approaches of the two previous tracks into one monstrous form, the noise rock assault tempered with dub-like moments and saxophone outbursts.

The EP closes with “Picina Voda”. Once again, Nokti somehow transforms off-kilter and aggressive noise rock into a hypnotic dirge. Here the sax and the synths provide a dense bed of sound that carries the tune along. The mood is almost sacred, but only if the divine appears in its most terrifying aspect. The back half of the song borders on a psychedelic jam that could go on for twenty-minutes, but instead they wrap things up just past the four-minute mark, which still makes it the longest song on the release by a full minute.

At only 14 minutes long, Cockschmerzen is packed full of complex sounds to absorb. The material is challenging and at times, downright terrifying, but also quite memorable. The influences they combine fit together naturally, and though some have made such connections before, no one has really done it quite like this. The rhythm section’s virtuosity and the wall of noise that accompanies them is utterly compelling and one can only imagine the places they might go when given a full-length in which to employ their creative powers. Hopefully, we will soon find out.

Todd Manning

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