From: You Follow Me [Fatcat, 2007]
This is probably the first time these two words have ever been uttered in the same sentence- free-jazz folk. But, that's exactly what Nina Nastasia's latest album entitled "You Follow Me" sounds like. I know some of you won't agree with me on this, but I'm not saying it sounds like Milford Graves or Sunny Murray. The drums just sound like they could easily be accompanied by squalling saxophones and trumpets. Steve Albini, the highly revered sound engineer on Nastasia's previous albums and founding member of Shellac, is manning the boards again with his trademark drum sound remaining perfectly intact on this recording. Nastasia is joined on the record by Jim White from the Australian group the Dirty Three whose inventive free-form drumming creates a sound that is entrancing and complex. Nina's haunting and fragile vocals complement her bittersweet tales of longing and despair.
On "I Write Down Lists" minimal guitar scrapings battle militaristic drumming as Nastasia's haunting vocals pull you into a deep trance. "Odd Said the Doe" has a relatively straightforward folk sound mixed with scattershot drumming that evokes the free spirit of Han Bennink. "Our Discussion" is a gentle ballad with brushed drums and galloping percussion that creates a serene feeling with chaos brewing just below the surface. The longest track on the record entitled "Late Night" clocks in at four minutes. However, Nastasia and White manage to pack so many intriguing things into this song that the length of it is competely irrelevant. Nastasia really sings her heart out while White accompanies her with an impressive array of drum rolls, cymbal crashes and intricate dynamics.
Recently, I was graced with the opportunity to experience Nina Nastasia in a live setting, and she brought along White to assume the drumming duties. It makes sense that she would collaborate with him since he has backed up other indie singer-songwriters such as Bonnie Prince Billy, Cat Power and Smog. Jim has a calm and confident stage presence that reels you in to his dynamic interplay with Nastasia's fragile vocals. His brushed drums and subtle accompaniment on one song contrast with furious waves of rumbling thunder on the next. Sometimes it seems like he's playing a completely different song than Nastasia, but somehow it all comes together perfectly. Nastasia has the on-stage persona of a shy girl who never got asked to the homecoming dance, but she comes out of her shell once her dynamic voice wraps precious melodies around your ears.
Even though the album is not available on vinyl in the US, it is readily available on CD across the world. Please do yourself a favor and pick this record up here, or at your local record store. Then, be sure to check out Nina Nastasia and Jim White when they come to your town.
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