Nitrogen Narcosis is defined by the sounds of water, a device that's equal parts comforting and threatening. Patient lapping waves open the record with "Receptor Antagonist," making way for sleek techno where the bassline rocks gently like it's bobbing on the surface of the sea. That calm is brief, however, with jarring chord stabs that lead us into "50-70 Metres," where glitchy screeches and the distant bellow of ships make it feel as if we're trapped underneath. Nitrogen Narcosis isn't just about creating unease, though—named for the numbness your body feels when submerged to certain depths, the record explores the complete, disorienting sensory experience of diving.
Fear and worry are sidestepped on the eerily still "Helium Tremors." Here, a barely-there bassline creates a free-floating feeling, with careful chords pinging about like fauna in an underwater cavern. Nitrogen Narcosis gets harrowing with its formidable nine-minute closer "Rapture Of The Deep," where a tough synth line fights through a low-end current. Snuffing itself out with one deep, sonorous note, the LP has a spectacular fake-out of an ending that'll fool you every time. Sure enough, those synth leads come busting back through, though the sudden moment of relief becomes ambiguous as the record fades into a more drawn-out conclusion.
It's hard to say whether that's meant to signify escape, or just a slower slip into the fate Donoso so narrowly avoided. That he can pack such a complex thread of ambiguity into what otherwise sounds like pure techno is a testament to his songwriting. Whether it's beautiful and wondrous or dark and claustrophobic, Nitrogen Narcosis is never less than engrossing.