Monday, 7 June 2010
Nina Nastasia – Outlaster (Fatcat)
Nina Nastasia is a woman whose musical career is steeped in history, in the last ten years her cult following has built up through the constant creation of astonishingly well written music backed by a stunning vocal range covering five albums, picking up admiration from the likes of John Peel having recorded six sessions for him, recording experimental albums with Jim White of Dirty Three and Steve Albini amongst many others. Outlaster, her first album in over two years continues to impress with her eerily beautiful take on melodramatic alt country. Despite her music sitting inherently at home with more mainstream folk acts, she is still yet to feel the dizzying highs that other peers have and although she more than deserves it, something tells me she doesn’t really care that much.
Nastasia has cobbled together quite an unruly lineup of musicians to help tell her dark tales of woe, for a start, Mr Albini has lent his hand at recording the piece, Jeff Parker of Tortoise plays guitar, as well as recruiting Paul Bryan, an instrumentalist and arranger to take her songs to whole new blissful levels by adapting the songs for orchestration. It’s the input of all of these amazingly gifted people that makes the chemistry on this album work so well, working dense layers of strings and woodwind sections into the mix, evolving what would usually be sparse and subtle acoustic numbers into rich, melancholic pieces.
This album has a lot of presence that whilst still intimate, has a power over the listener that not many albums do. The title track is a fine example, five minutes of tense atmospheric strings and subtle drumming building up over a repetitive guitar line, opener ‘Cry, Cry Baby’ offers the world her bleak outlook on a love recently lost with calming guitar lines and soothing strings whilst ‘You're A Holy Man’ offers much more of a dark country vibe. If Laura Marling was in actual fact living in a bedsit, busking for a living and had more of a tragic upbringing she might have more of a chance at writing music this stunningly sinister.
Nastasia’s sixth album continues in her musical experimentation and has developed a sound further than anyone could have possibly predicted ten years ago. As unsettling as it is heart-warming she once again puts her beautiful song writing ability to the test and has come up with a record that will be kept close to many hearts.
Words : Gordon Reid