Friday, June 20, 2003
"Hello London - R U ready to..."
posted by SMc at 5:49 AM
No, Nina Nastasia didn't bounce onto the stage at the Purcell Room Wednesday with this hoary old cliche, or any others for that matter. Splendidly cliche-free is Nina save, that is, for the one about letting the music do the talking. There were to be no song introductions or titles even ("This is..the next song") and a couple of reluctant stabs at banter made The Be Good Tanyas look like super-slick Vegas veterans.
Not that this is "...rawk", of course. Shadowy chamber folk-pop, maybe? Singular and stellar for sure. Having yet to hear the new album, reallyrather guesses that the unfamiliar half of this evening's set was taken mostly from Run to ruin (and not the super-scarce Dogs), in which case the well would seem far from dry. Superstar didn't instantly grab but it was the exception. You, her and me is a cool sounding mystery song which showcased not just Nastasia's storytelling and fine, clear vocals but also Jim White's drumming. Sticking predominantly to subtle brushwork in amongst the string ensemble's bowing and scraping, White would occasionally and with evident relish apply some empathetic welly with the fat end of the sticks. The ominous This is what it is took a right old pounding.
When last seen at The Spitz in October Nastasia had no rhythm section but there was electric guitar; the attempt by tonight's accordianist - shaggy, seated and whatever the polar opposite of dynamic is - to replace it's spacey pings on So little didn't quite work. But this is just about the best this blog can come up with by way of a negative; Ugly face, Oh my stars, In the graveyard, Little angel all joined the vertiginous stack on the credit side. Melodically rich, stark but not quite austere, multifacetted but without frills, Ms. Nastasia is indeed a dark gem...
...and here's the Guardian's 5-star notice of the same show.
Dealing with things like cracks in the ceiling which keep you awake, Haley Bonar's sweetly sparse Little bird on my shoulder is the kind of song reallyrather imagines Nina Nastasia might have written when she was 19. The above-mentioned Mr. White has also recorded with Low and it's this outfit's own label Chairkickers which has released the precocious Ms. Bonar's ...the size of planets; Low's Alan Sparhawk co-produces and plays. Treading a line between ambient 'singer-songwriter' and twang of a darkish hue, it's about half a really good album; if it was playing in your local coffeeshop you'd likely make enquiries.
The first five off the reel - like the rest, all slow-to-mid-tempo affairs - are a fine listen. The stop-start kooky keyboards of Save a horse, ride a cowboy and the equally 'pop' Drinking again; Bless this mess' woosy folk-blues and the backwards electric guitar and Stevie Nicks-goes-a-buskin' of Car wreck, all shouting "talent". Bonar herself doesn't get near to shouting, her dusty, definite vocals (with a beautiful but under-used top end) carrying words which, though they do feature rather more 'had-it-with-men, where's-the-whisky' world-weariness than seems likely in one so young, generally convince.
There are a few 'nearly' songs here, however, moody items like Billy, Go away angels and Out of the lake. A bit like watching a tape of your team's missed chances, reallyrather still plays them over hoping subconciously that this time they'll hit the back of the net. But they always slip just the wrong side of posts. And, not entirely unexpectedly, there's a pair of rather precious piano-led numbers of a type which always have this listener scrambling for the remote. At worst, Bonar could end up as a sort of rootsy Paula Cole or Fiona Apple. But, with a touch more brevity and melodic invention in her songwriting, if she continues to keep the right company she can surely only become even more interesting. Thinking about it, a support slot touring with Nina Nastasia would see her nicely off the straight and narrow...
Nadine, er, 'news': 'Sources tell us that the record should be released by an unnamed but estimable indie label (oh, the intrigue!) in early September,' reports the Riverfront Times of Strange seasons. In this blog's two-runner Interminable Gestation Stakes it seems that Wheat now takes a slight lead, their third album having finally been slated for October...
"Are you really into music, or do you just want to be famous and have sex with a lot of random girls?" Ah, the eternal question...The Tyde's Darren Rademaker tells this week's LA Weekly he know's where he stands (interview down the page here...)
And in the same place an interview with Emily Haines whose contribution to the runaway indieland bandwagon that is Broken Social Scene's You forgot it in people is one of the album's (many) highlights. This record is apparently getting a UK release via Mercury in August; the band play a festival in France that month - can a London stopover be resisted? Hopefully not...