Rachika Nayar doesn’t just spew out a little fog before her live show, she stretches the venue’s fire code to its limit. Before the guitarist walks onstage, the entire performance space is clouded, red exit signs barely visible, until you can barely see your hand in front of your face. The effect on the audience is immediate: Conversations dull to a whisper and friends drift carefully towards each other to reunite before the music starts, tiptoeing across a shadowy maze of bodies as they take on a heightened awareness of their own.
It’s the perfect environment to experience Nayar’s music. Interviewed on the heels of her 2021 debut, Our Hands Against the Dusk, she championed the “totally obliterating” power of a rave’s atmosphere, and spoke of her desire to create a similar environment, ones that “simultaneously takes you out of yourself, and submerges you deep within yourself.” Our Hands did this by constructing misty ambient labyrinths out of processed guitar, revealing Nayar’s ability to sculpt the instrument’s earthy twang into unpredictable alien timbres and shift them back to familiar shapes at a moment’s notice. When Nayar debuted tracks from her astonishing second album, Heaven Come Crashing, at the Brooklyn venue Public Records, strobes flashed violently and unexpected floods of drums crashed into the crowd. Egos melted away as the crowd breathed in a wave of ecstatic release.
Heaven Come Crashing injects the ambient wash of Nayar’s past work with flashes of dancefloor emotionality, striking a balance between reflective contemplation and the ego-melting thrills of a warehouse party. On the stunning title track, she traces the arc of her musical transformation in miniature. Slices of granulated guitar gently refract into the frame, and for a few seconds, the song could be a holdover from the swooning sentimentality of Our Hands. But she soldiers on, backed by unearthly guest vocals from fellow guitarist and songwriter Maria BC that swell from airy wisps into a supercharged choir. Suddenly, a trap door unhinges and you’re ripped into a punishingly beautiful beat drop. It’s a scene of catharsis surrounded by a squealing guitar solo and the cascading cymbal crashes of a drum’n’bass beat. “Heaven Come Crashing” lifts you up with shameless melodrama and pure affirmation: It was all worth it.
Nayar deploys these moments of tension and release with the sixth sense of a veteran after-hours DJ, keenly aware that floor-filling emotional highs are earned through careful pacing. “Tetramorph,” the album’s longest and most satisfying song, weaves through a series of false stops and starts that perfectly read the pulse of the crowd. Chattering hi-hats come in at full volume, emerging from pin-drop silence in a quick hit of stimulation. They fizzle out but the effects cling to your body, propping you up as you navigate a maze of buzzing drones that build into a waltzing post-rock climax. The effect is startling, but as Nayar rocks out in the coda, you easily recall every part of the meticulously arranged journey, awe-struck at how seamlessly she blended it all together.