The cover of Pantophobie is a cross between the surrealism of M. C. Escher and technological horror of H. R. Giger. Thus it is no surprise that the accompanying music demonstrates similar eclecticism. Indeed, Ni is a dual-guitar driven rock quartet from France that lands somewhere between King Crimson, post-rock, and metal with a tad of Mr. Bungle thrown in. Most tracks feature angular riffing over jagged rhythms with a shifting base. The pieces are highly structured and the group rarely deviates from their pre-defined path.
Nonetheless, there is plenty of variety throughout, with gritty textures, open-string chording, complex bass lines, and the occasional indecipherable yelling. Guitarists Anthony Béard and François Mignot trade off riffs, atmospherics, and short motifs. But the overall approach is modern – the guitar is not an avenue for extended solos, but instead a co-equal instrument to the others. Indeed, each piece moves from idea to idea so seamlessly, that the entire album can be enjoyed as if it were one extended track. While the album and track titles explore various types of fear, the feel therein is not of overwhelming anxiety or distress, but rather of a lurking darkness around the edges.
This is not Ni’s first go-around. Pantophobie, which comes out on March 1, is their fourth release overall, following a previous full album in 2015 and two earlier EPs. The group displays an elevated level of comfort and mastery in their quirky style, and this latest effort is well worth a listen.