Back in 2017, Minneapolis-raised artist Jeremy Nutzman emerged with his debut project, NCOD, released under the moniker Velvet Negroni (a name inspired by a fancy cocktail at a bar in Austin). His unique soundscapes brought him to big audiences and bigger fans: sampled by Kanye West, touring with Bon Iver, and signed to 4AD for the release of his acclaimed 2019 album Neon Brown. A few years later, he is gearing up for the release of his propulsive new album Bulli, a record that trembles with a slick and polished new intensity following a relatively tumultuous life period. “I started using drugs again in a negative manner,” he says, “And felt like I lost all my friends or their respect. And then there was Covid, and I was at home, then my CashApp got hacked. And because of that I got paranoid as fuck for a long time and stayed in the house.” And then further disaster struck – a fire in his house – and the mindset all changed. “It sort of distorted everything,” he says of the fire, “Looking back, it had to have.”
The result is an album on which Nutzman cannot fully hear himself. – which makes sense, given the heavy circumstances in which he was creating it. Though, as he explains: “However it got filtered, the album is still me. It glimmers with an almost-uncomfortable pop sheen, with lead single ‘Sinker’ whirring with a strutting positivity and rich instrumentation that is at stark odds with the lyrics (“Wake up and do pills like I’m dying of cancer”). Touchstones of leftfield electronic sounds meld with nods to alternative rock, power pop, even tender R&B and deft hip-hop. It’s a record that holds something anticipatory, at times almost frantic and manic, occasionally even sexy and breathy (as on the lithe bass of ‘Shiny’). Given the period of his life that it emerged from, it’s understandable that Nutzman would feel fraught and uncertain listening back to Bulli, but make no mistake: it’s a deeply accomplished album which swirls with fragmentary soundscapes pushing ever forward into somewhere that feels new and vital.