Stoner Rock instrumental duo Birds of Nazca may hail from Nantes, France, but they owe much of their debut album to Japan and South America.
On the surface, the connection to South America is immediately evident: Nazca is a Peruvian city that once hosted a flourishing culture lasting from 100 BC to 800 AD. The Nazca people were so advanced, they built wind-powered underground aqueducts to provide water to citizens and crops.
On the surface, the connections to South America are immediately evident: Nazca is a Peruvian city that once hosted a culture so advanced, the Nazca citizens built wind-powered underground aqueducts that provided water to crops and people.
The connections to Japan are evident on the very first track. The music video for “A Fly In the Helmet” features footage from Gamera v. Jiger, a film from the once-popular Gamera series. The Birds of Nazca single, “Kanagawa,” is a reference to a famous Japanese woodblock print, and it even features the woodblock on its cover:
Although Peru, Japan, and France offer three distinct cultures, Birds of Nazca melds them together perfectly, crafting an excellent brand of Stoner Rock. When combined with its lo-fi production, Birds of Nazca offers an extra layer of fuzz and grime that ensures the entire album remains heavy from start to finish.
About Birds of Nazca
Surprisingly, Birds of Nazca are able to capture their sound with just guitars and drums—no bassists or vocalists. The band members are:
The Birds of Nazca album was recorded by Justin Nicquevert at The Blue Anvil Sound (a studio about 80 kilometers north of Nantes), where he also mixed and mastered the recordings.
Birds of Nazca Review
Track 1: A Fly In the Helmet
The band made a great decision by opening with “A Fly In the Helmet.” Easily the best and most accessible track on the album, “A Fly In the Helmet” is a combination of Stoner and Space Rock, using a heavy layer of fuzz and catchy riffs to propel the song forward. The only bummer: It’s less than three minutes long.
Track 2: Cracuta
The longest song on the album, “Cracuta” is simply a great, multi-sectional track filled with excellent riffs and movements.
Track 3: Cactus
“Cactus” opens slowly, gradually building its heavy, gravelly riffs. Like “A Fly In the Helmet,” “Cactus” features some of the album’s best, headbanging-worthy moments.
Unfortunately, the song also feels a bit unfinished, as if this version was a framework or collection of ideas for another final product. Still, “Cactus” is a lot of fun, and it sounds like it would be even better to enjoy live.
Track 4: Almucantar
“Almucantar” is the most Doom-oriented track on Birds of Nazca, though these moments of Doom are punctuated with blasts of quick guitars and frantic drumming.
Track 5: Kanagawa
One of the more intricate tracks on the album, “Kanagawa” opens with the sound of waves on the shore—appropriate when you consider the connection back to the famous The Great Wave Off Kanagawa (as we discussed in the introduction).
Guillaume and Romu take their time establishing “Kanagawa,” relying on a thick, pulsing riff and captivating drums to push the song forward. Interestingly, Guillaume adds a few echoing high notes reminiscent of Buckethead (think “Whitewash” from the Colma album).
After the Stoner introduction, the duo settles into a slow and low Doom riff—before returning to Stoner territory. By the end of the song, “Kanagawa” even shows glimmers of Space Rock, thanks to their heavy use of phasers.
Track 6: Volcano
Laser beams. That’s the first thing I thought of while listening to the guitar work at the beginning of “Volcano.” One of the shortest tracks on Birds of Nazca at only 3:22, “Volcano” is the most Space Rock-oriented song on the album.
Track 7: Symposium
“Symposium” is the only track that features vocals, and here they come in the form of a tribal chant before a massive wave of guitar. Although “Symposium” is placed near the end of the album, the lack of movement within the song (it really is just a riff or two repeated a few times over) makes it feel like a transition track that would be better suited as a mid-album palette cleanser. Listeners will also notice that “Symposium” ends with a chant as well, with the voice leading us into “Vulture Gryfus.”
Track 8: Vulture Gryfus
“Vulture Gryfus” ensures the album concludes as excitingly as it began. Unlike “Symposium” before it, “Vulture Gryfus” moves quickly, thanks in part to Romu’s raucous drumming.
The concluding track eventually slows—around the 1:50 mark. Gradually, the song builds again, with Romu’s kick drum pulsing as a convincing bass line throughout the build.
“Vulture Gryfus” may be the most interesting track on the album, and it has nothing to do with composition or phaser pedals. Instead, it’s the little noises in the background of the recording that occasionally come through. The best example comes at 4:19, right after the guitar falls to silence and we hear a series of clicks—as if someone was adjusting the settings for an explosive end to the album. In fact, as we learned from the band, these clicks are from the band’s guitar pedals, as they recorded the track live.
Pros: Many bands in this space stick with the low strings on their guitar and don’t explore very far beyond the 8th fret except for the occasional solo. Guillaume remembers that guitars can offer treble in a riff—tough work when you’re also carrying bass duties. Romu, meanwhile, explores the entire drum kit, delivering an experience that’s just as intriguing.
Cons: There are moments of Birds of Nazca that can become stale. “Kanagawa,” for example, could likely lose an entire minute and offer a much more impactful experience. Songs like “Symposium” and “Cactus,” for all of their intrigue and merit, feel like great starting points—but the tracks seem unfinished.
Still, Birds of Nazca is an excellent debut, and their multi-influence soundscape offers many directions for them to explore in a follow-up.
To learn more about the band, check out their Bandcamp page or follow them on Facebook.