On Niia’s “Not Up for Discussion,” the singer and her band seem to have set themselves an interesting challenge: how to conjure slithering funk with the minimum of effort. The drum programming is mostly unchanging, just two kicks and a splat to keep time; the pianist is only slightly less reticent, spraying notes in clusters with ample space in between each.
In this reserved environment, the bass playing of Laura Lee — who anchors the low end for the band Khruangbin — stands out like crazy, as if the class cut-up suddenly crashed a party full of introverts. Initially she plays two-note sequences, keeping up with the drums. But that doesn’t last long. Soon the bass is prancing around the drums or plopping down single, resonant notes in the gaps left by the piano.
Niia seems to gather strength from these riffs as she reels off anxious couplets — “I wear sunscreen every day and even in the night/Wake up early to re-track the same four bars one more time” — and commands: “Sit up straight, or don’t sit at all.” She ends the rushing hook with a pronouncement that’s both bold and deflated at the same time: “Tired of being good, got nothing left to give.”
Niia released II: La Bella Vita last year.
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