Thursday, July 21, 2011

Birds of America on Seacave Records

This came in the other day from Nathaniel Russell (I knew that cover art looked familiar) who's done tons of record sleeve design for Vetiver and Cryptacize among others. This single is actually from his solo music project, Birds of America. As you would expect, every one of these sleeves are handprinted and unique, a huge foldover handnumbered insert gives some insight into both sides of this one from Seacave Records.

The A-Side, "Nitewalker", has a restrained intensity, a loud electric guitar barely strummed at first, a similarly quiet, hardly moving shaker and when his strong layered vocal comes in over the instrumentation just hitting it's stride, it's reminding me of Chad VanGaalen, not up in the Neil Young register so much but the same confessional, bigger than a bedroom sound. There's minimal use of any given instrument, the heart of this is the understated layers of vocal and slow moving melodies taking their sweet time. The sum of all of this holding back making you anxious. The insert photo is a vintage national park picture of two guys standing on the edge of a rock perched out into space over the grand canyon (?), the feel of this track is very much like that distant memory of something very personal... slightly dangerous but beautiful. It has to be turned up very loud to hear the subtlety over the constant whir of this air conditioner that is on the verge of completely breaking down.

The B-Side track, "Now I see it" begins with an almost looped sample warm reverb guitar, circling around. There's a lot more of that bedroom sound present here, lots of background kitchen noise, a clattering of plates, moving instruments, drumsticks. A heavily separate dual layer vocal rises out of the setup like a improvised dining room choir. The snare chains underneath are as important as that hit, and maybe it's because of this insert photo of a giant standing in an apartment a normal size kid barely coming up to his midsection, (I swear I saw this in the Guinness book of world records) but this side has an oddly religious feel, in the same way Jeff Magnum seemed to be exploring those dark, personal areas of existence. You are a witness.
Now I see it / the way it is / I'm not new here / it's always been
Getting hypnotic with a couple of chords in a very Velvet Underground jam way, finding that groove and going for enlightenmentin repetition. A great introspective handcrafted single in art and sound without the usual home recorded tells. Nicely captured intimate moments of solid songwriting. Something quiet to melt away to.
Get thee to a designated cooling station with a record player.

Listen to it
NITEWALKER by Birds Of America

Get it direct from Nathaniel on his bigcartel page, Midheaven or Insound.

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