Friday, July 1, 2011

Nat Baldwin - People Changes (2011)

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While checking out a enterprising young band (more on them later), I stumbled upon the fact that Nat Baldwin (of Dirty Projectors fame) had released a solo album and was currently on tour supporting it. My immediate thought was: I have to check this out. And yet I was also highly dubious. Because I honestly had no idea what to expect. This was the first time I had ever heard of a double bassists turned singer/songwriter (well besides Esperanza Spalding and Stanley Clarke but they're jazz bassists). After listening to "Weights" and "Lifted", I was absolutely won over. Considering that the album is only 7 songs long and two of the songs were incredible, buying the album for the rest of the tracks didn't seem like too much of a gamble.

Opening with a cover of avant-garde cellist Arthur Russell's "A Little Lost", I was hooked, ready to just sit and let Nat Baldwin delightful multi-tasking take control until the album ended. Each track on the album ups the already seemingly high ante, bringing each song to it's ultimate extreme - culminating in the free-form 2-minute solo jam that is "What Is There". Before that, there's been a sort of break in Nat Baldwin's pastorals filled with saxophone squeaks and squawks, cymbal crashes and abnormal drum beats ("Real Fakes" "Lifted"). These random bursts of activity is what makes those brilliant musical moments of pastoral bliss (like in Kurt Weisman cover "Let My Spirit Rise") all that more hard-won.

People Changes is an album whose rugged experimentalism makes it one of my favorite type of album: Those that bend and defy any concept of genre. The kind of album that you excitedly share with like-minded people of good taste because you can't properly qualify what it sounds like. Nat Baldwin's fourth album, no doubt influenced by his time in the Dirty Projectors and bass training, is marvelous. I will admit it's a bit abrasive for unprepared ears but if you stick with it, it's well worth the initial shock to the system.

Get a taste of Nat Baldwin with a live video of him performing "Weights":

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