Sunday, 25 November 2012

Nat Baldwin - People Changes

Unique and awesome 4th solo album from Dirty Projectors bassist. Spiritually yearning mix of strings & woodwind with a hint of free-jazz.

Let's be honest, if you're a singer-songwriter it's difficult to get noticed in the crowd, such is the saturated market. Originality helps, as does taste, honesty, believability, and genuine warmth. All those qualities are present on this release. And then some!

Although the songs were composed in 2007, Baldwin wisely allowed them room to breathe, letting them evolve naturally, letting the arrangements settle in over time before finally recording them in 2010. Using a deceptively simple palette of vocals, bowed double bass, violin, clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet and one track added drums and guitar, Baldwin hand picked a small, trusted group of musicians, including some childhood friends to record with.

Click over the jump for more on People Changes.
Opening with a sprightly cover of Arthur Russell's “A Little Lost”, Baldwin's acerbic vocals rise and soar above the pulse of his driving, bowed double bass. The vocals and bass were recorded live on most of the tracks , adding to the in-the-moment feel.

“Weights” begins with a tense and edgy string arrangement, clarinet coming to the fore halfway through as it veers more into free jazz territory, perfect accompaniment to the angst-laden lyrics. There a Buckley-esque feel to Baldwin's vocal on “Real Fakes” (That's Jeff not Tim). His fine falsetto backed by minimal strings leading to the more experimental and atonal instrumental coda.

“The Same Thing” is a beautifully emotional meditation on love and contender for album highlight. “Lifted” is the only track to feature drums, though not in a standardised rock way; Baldwin having learnt the joys of experimentation via free jazz sax player Anthony Braxton. Instrumental “What Is There” is the most obvious example of the free jazz aspects of Baldwin's work before the compassionate closing track “Let My Spirit Rise”, a cover of a Kurt Weisman song.

Although only seven songs in total, (two covers and five originals), and clocking in at just over half an hour, it feels complete and satisfying to listen to in one sitting. It's a record completely non reliant on artifice or studio wizardry, all the instruments are acoustic and natural sounding. The magic is in the material, the playing and the arrangements. There are echoes of some classic artists – The Velvet Underground, John Coltrane and Jeff Buckley are ones that spring most readily to mind, but this album truly sounds like no other record past or present, it stands alone, which in 2011 is no mean feat.

People Changes is released on Western Vinyl Records.