Review: Noya Rao - Icaros

Signed up on the spot at an intimate gig by Gondwana Records, the Manchester record label that also has GoGo Penguin and Mammal Hands on its books, Leeds-based band ‘Noya Rao’ are releasing their debut album ‘Icaros’. They’ve just finished a tour to promote it, including a well-received set at Jazz Re:freshed’s legendary weekly MauMau residency – a notorious curator of new talent.

Originally conceived by Tom Henry as a solo production project, after finding bassist Jim Wiltshire, drummer Matt Davies and vocalist Olivia Bhattacharjee and jamming what they describe as “raw, psychedelic improvisations”, they have developed a spacious, chilled-out style, yet it’s a style that is encouragingly individual for a band’s first album.

You can clearly hear the legacy of its origins as a solo production project, drawing a lot from electronic music and broken beats as well as jazz’s love of complex chords and changing time signatures. They sound emerges from the swirling ambient synths and echo-y vocals of opening track ‘Azimuth’ to drop a deep, dub-like bass in ‘Golden Claw’, incorporating the characteristic sound of the Leeds club scene. The drums seem to combine elements of both a drum machine and world percussion, and the rare space left in Matt Davies’ drumming actually adds impact to the groove. There’s also an occasional nod to 80s inspiration more often heard in low-fi and indie bands, like on tracks ‘Golden Claw’ and ‘Midas’. The stand-out track, ‘Fly’, uses Olivia’s voice more like another synth line. It also has the most hard-hitting lyrics: “Pennies dropping to the top There’s nothing left for all the rest”. The subject matter of the songs glide elegantly through disappointed dreams and aspirations, toxic relationships, and social issues. Despite the chilled sounds, it’s a typically millennial album about our modern problems.

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