DIG NITTY – ‘Reverse of Mastery’

By Andy Joice

There’s a whole heap of sounds we cover here at Punktastic. Ranging from hardcore metal to DIY indie punk, we try and keep you covered. One we don’t touch that often is lo-fi surf folk rock. But for Brooklyn four-piece Dig Nitty, that might be the best way to describe them. Bouncing between a range of genres, it’s difficult to pin them into one place – and maybe we shouldn’t even attempt it. They’re their own sound, with every song varying enough to be unique but still distinctive. With the release of their debut album, ‘Reverse Of Mastery’, that variety remains in place.

Predominantly written whilst working as a national park ranger, Erin McGrath uses birds and nature to create some incredibly lucid imagery. While it may not be a direct thread, her poetic way with words tie the album together, and couple perfectly with some of the heavier themes they touch upon.

Opening with single ‘Small Curd’, the melodies build slowly to create a lo-fi ambient atmosphere that’s filled predominantly with basslines and steading drumming. Vocal harmonies between lead vocalist McGrath and drummer Reggie Bender are subtle yet affecting, intertwining like two sparrows floating on the breeze. The crescendo of distorted guitars and hi-hats replicates humanities self-destructive nature by layer something so gentle built into a crumble mess of noise. Mess, of course, is a positive in this case.

Swiftly followed by ‘Lomita’, it’s jangly guitars and upbeat tempo hide a subtle complexity. Despite the bouncing vibrancy, loss is a huge contributing factor to this track, particularly the death of a loved one. It’s colourful in sound and delicately approaches the subject matter without being macabre or sombre, instead looking at the things you wish you could do with said person.

‘Starling’ is a delicate country song – with twangs and slides from guitarist Nick Llobet and a trudging bassline from Bernardo Ochoa, this could easily soundtrack any coming of age film featuring a quirky teen looking to discover themselves. Casual bird whistles through the outro and McGrath’s soaring vocals are accompanied by a tambourine that keeps time perfectly. You can practically taste the moonshine.

Slowing the album significantly, ‘Oleander’ is a near whispered ballad accompanied by delicate strings. A confirmation of how rangy McGrath’s voice is, she’s able to soar to the high notes, but can still hit lower ranges with relative ease. The meandering creates a gentle lullaby that, given the context of the song is the dangers of hanging on to memories, manages to avoid being too somber or too rousing, instead balancing both perfectly.

Although there are countless slow tracks, ‘Screen’ offers some a slight reprise, with it’s fuzzed out surf pop. Plenty of slides and summery basslines create a sound similar to The Breeders, with McGrath’s vocals sitting slightly below the instrumentation. Similarly, ‘Blue Bard’ builds from a slow, dreamy love song into a close of grungy guitars, chunky basslines and thundering drums.

For a debut album, there’s a level of complexity and dexterity that’s unusual with first records. It’s soulful at places, mournful in others and dirty in parts. Both musically and lyrically, it’s poetic by nature with everything working cohesively, despite venturing to numerous styles that would normally clash. It might not blow your ears apart, but it’s one that’ll sit deftly in your head for weeks.

ANDY JOICE

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