Return To Nagaya is a two-piece rock band out of Santa Cruz, California. They’ve been playing shows locally for just under a year, but they’ve already come so far in such a short time. They just released a four-track EP entitled Rip Holes and are currently getting started on recording a full-length album.
Rip Holes opens with “Juana Ride.” An ominous sound grows slowly but menacingly. Everything explodes into earth-shattering noise as distorted guitar screeches into view with a captivating and lip-bite-inducing riff. Everything falls away to expose the vocalist’s charred and husky vocals which growl melodically above a steady beat and quietly chugging guitar rhythm. It’s the perfect recipe for modern day grunge-indie-rock. I liked the performance instrumentally and vocally, and the riff was catchy; there’s nothing to fault in that regard.
I did find myself wanting a little more in terms of a vocal hook and a little diversity as the song progressed forwards, especially seeing as it was a track which totaled five minutes and 22 seconds in length, but the climax did make up for this with a slightly more energetic switched-up riff and crashing drum cymbals. It emerged perhaps a little late into the song for my liking but as a whole, the track was really strong.
“Lost And Found” opens with an upbeat riff, pulling away from the moodiness of the opening track. I liked this change of pace; it didn’t clash in the sense that the sound itself was consistent, but it managed to add a little variety to the EP. The change of mood helped avoid the EP become a compilation of four near-identical tracks, as so often is the case with bands in this genre.
There’s something a little more captivating about the vocals in this track too. There’s still the right amount of grunge-fueled moodiness and screeching guitar, but the difference with this track is that it makes you want to move. The beat is precise, the guitar rhythm is well synchronized with the beat, and the wailing lead guitar oozes with a ‘90s influence.
The title track “Rip Holes” opts for a blues style, and I liked that change of pace too. It was less energetic than the first two tracks, but that’s not a bad thing. This song tries something different, and it’s mostly successful. The chord progression is infectious, though I was left wanting a little more definition in the guitar to pull apart the rhythm a little more clearly - I know it’s an aesthetic choice to opt for murky guitar in grunge music, but I think the guitar rhythm in this track in particular could’ve done with slightly less distortion. This is a well-written and well-performed song. Production is one of the easiest things to fix when it comes to improving one’s sound, but music is all subjective anyway.
For a debut four-track EP Rip Holes was really impressive. There are a few minor things to tidy up, but the important thing is that they’re talented at playing their instruments and writing their music. With those two traits, they can only go upwards from here.
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