Nathan Golub/Wood Ear Nothing in Return EP
(Hello Good Friend Tapes – March 11, 2015)
(Acoustic, Blues, Folk)
4 words: American, Primitive, Spiral, Soundscapes
Sometimes when listening to instrumental, or mostly instrumental music, I can’t help but write a tale in my head that follows the song. It turns out that this split EP between Nathan Golub and Nate Tarr of Wood Ear, “Nothing in Return”, is just about perfect for that. What follows is as much a story as it is a review, with each song being a different moment of the listener’s journey.
Liberty Drive In
A buzzing, humming, rattling sound swells up in stereo. Slow feedback and sonic blips give way to an acoustic guitar picking out a bluesy theme. An electric guitar pierces the ether with a trebly strum. What’s that swelling in the background? A pedal steel that sways and waves. The rattles and shakes give way to a steady, loping rhythm that brushes and softly punctuates the swaying strings. Soon the sound settles, but that old guitar comes back at a faster clip. The percussion picks up the pace and the pedal steel weaves through its gait. It’s time to take a ride through the country. Out on the road with your window down, a sound pushes in. Someone rolled the back window down to let out cigarette smoke. It creates that just wrong, but right, wobbly tremolo in your ears. You say something about that, and then the sound clears as you enter some kind of raga-tinged drone territory. There are diminishing chords and circular melodies like singing cicadas, plucked out and accented with crashes and rides like so many croaking frogs. You aren’t far from home, but if you let your imagination roam, you could be anywhere. You’re in the foothills of the apocalypse. Or maybe you’re just in some rolling stretch of highway between cities where nothing, save the billboards, reminds you of the civilization that lies just past the off-ramps. You have that moment where you miss large portions of a journey because you just zoned out and drove. Somehow you pull into your driveway and realize you weren’t paying attention for the last twelve minutes. We’ll you’re home now, and that earlier bluesy sound echoes from the backyard.
Your friends are on the porch out back humming along to out some open-stringed song, and it gets louder as you walk around the side of the house. You see them all in a circle, cans of beer making company with one another at bare feet while insects fly low and high in the evening light. You pull up a chair in the circle and pry one open. The pedal steel sings the “Oohs” and “Ahs” for those without voices while the one, two, one, two thrum of thumb plucked low notes stack on top of each other as the song circles on. It’s that old timey game where people play pass the melody around so that it morphs and changes in the hands of each individual. You notice the cooler is running low, and someone needs to fetch a few refills. The song fades out like it came in as you walk around the house to grab a few more cold ones.
For the Voiceless
The light is low now, and nothing but that buzzing halogen out back and glowing embers at the end of puckered lips illuminate the faces of those gathered around. Nate has a new song he wants to sing. He starts off, and you can’t help but feel that it’s directed at someone in this circle, maybe even you. He sings of safe places like home and solitary confinement. It’s hard to put yourself in another person’s shoes, and even harder to not project yourself onto them. Acknowledgement of this passes over the crowd in quiet gazes at the ground as Nate gets to the end of the song and sings over and over, “It’s hard not to want the same for you. Not to assume that you are the same as me when you’re silent.”