Nice Nice have never lacked for ambition. Jason Buehler and Mark Shirazi began using real-time effects processing to sound more like a small army of musicians instead of a duo on their debut album, Chrome, and went on to make a series of concept EPs about the seasons of the year. However, Extra Wow is still some of the pair’s most ambitious and dynamic music. Nice Nice aimed to capture the energy of their live shows on their Warp debut, and that they succeeded so thoroughly -- without sacrificing any of their intricacy -- makes them worthy brethren to labelmates Battles and Pivot. Despite being over three years in the making, Extra Wow never feels overcooked. “Set and Setting” opens the album with backwards guitars and chanting that ratchet up the tension so much that “One Hit”’s subsequent explosion isn’t just satisfying, it feels inevitable. “One Hit” -- which is hypnotic and visceral at the same time, too weird to be an anthem yet more than energetic enough to make heads nod and fists pump -- also reflects Nice Nice’s penchant for playfully literal song titles; see also the irresistible dub-chiptune fusion “Big Bounce” and “Everything Falling Apart,” which brings chaos to order with a melody chopped into as many pieces as possible. Even at the duo’s trickiest, Nice Nice don’t feel like they’re showing off just because they can. The musicianship is often dazzling, but the songs underneath are solid and surprisingly poppy, balancing immediate structures with experimental tangents. “See Waves” is downright charming, its mix of junkyard gamelan, deeper-than-deep bass, and Afro-pop guitars giving it the feel of an audio cartoon. Though this kind of maximalism is impressive -- especially on the triumphant Krautrock jam “A Vibration” -- Extra Wow is equally intriguing when Nice Nice pull back a bit. Buehler and Shirazi take their fondness for gamelan in very different directions with “A Way We Glow,” which suggests a jungle after a downpour with its resounding beats and lush sparkle, and the delicate “New Cascade.” Nice Nice aren’t quite as distinctive when they aren’t operating at either extreme of their music: the psychedelic drones of “A Little Love” and “Double Head” feel a little samey compared to the album’s more dynamic moments. Still, the worst that can be said about Extra Wow is that Nice Nice have so many good ideas that they jump from one to another at a dizzying pace. Each idea on its own, however, has more than enough wow to dazzle listeners.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares