White Violet – [Album]

Monday, 06 August 2012

The perfect facade inherent within modern folk music is that it feigns intimacy very well but, in truth, is very carefully measured, calculated and produced.some readers might recoil at such candid, crass cynicism, but think about it – as knee-bucklingly intimate as Bright Eyes can sound, has Connor Oberst ever really been as alone in a room as he seemed to be when the tapes rolled and captured “Simple In The Moonlight?” Probably not. Was it Neil Young's idea to make Le Noise the one-man gang assault it turned out to be, or was it Daniel Lanois' production? The beauty of those records is that they present excellent ideas and impressions of intimate imitation, and make realizing it all plausible – but those who know better (which is pretty much everyone) know it's all for show, and will say so if pushed hard enough. That's the established tenet in folk music; the implication is that any lesson to be learned in any given song by the greats was hard-won, but it seldom (if ever) actually is. Because it's a form, what would happen if someone took it and flipped the concept on its head? What if – instead of starting on a primitive and basic level and evolving up the line over time, a folk musician started from a very sterile or situationist point and attempted to have a few epiphanies about life and the human condition from there? It might sound like a dicey proposition, but that is exactly the angle that White Violet and singer Nate Nelson take on Hiding, Mingling; they start from an impossibly clean tightly controlled and delicate place and attempt to find truth from it.

How does it work? In fact (as Hiding, Mingling proves), the results can be quite dazzling in application.

One of the first, most fantastical points of interest on Hiding, Mingling can be found in the fact that everything sounds incredibly slick, urbane and refined from top to bottom and, unlike so make other folk records, begins as dark, laidback and cool instead of bright, warm and hopeful in demeanor. The few fixtures which can be found in the mix of “White Wash” (the first track on the album) are elegant certainly; the reverb-touched acoustic guitar sounds beautiful but so delicate that it could be made of glass while Nelson gently bucks folk convention by sounding perfectly clear-headed in the dim hours of the morning – not at all sleepy. It's a pretty engaging change from the everyday in that it seems to turn one hundred and eighty degrees and run away from any semblance of folk orthodoxy; there are folk hints in it, but it is not folk within the terms that most people associate with the term. The melodies used to support lines like “I'm becoming comfortable in my shoes/ Everywhere I walk leaves a little room” line up perfectly with what seasoned folk music fans expect from the genre – but it is also perfectly detached. That cool detachment is the part which might throw listeners initially, but the plot does get deeper from there.

The empty, unadorned spaces line up neatly and almost perfectly in line as Nelson effortlessly tosses out “4 AM,” “Second Wind,” “Everyday In Listening” and “Station” and hits the mark with each. The chills, space in the mixes and general sense of absence in each song make make it simple for a listener to sidle in easily and stake a place in each and become one with the songs because it just feels right to do so. Because it is that easy too, listeners may find that they almost expect Nelson to buckle, break down and let them into his mindset at some point between “Blame” (the halfway point through the album) and the end of the record but, because it never happens, it becomes the tease that every single stumble excites, and that's what keeps listeners engaged – even as they wander out through the back of “Ghost, Teacher, Girl and I.”

Because the same movements tease but don't actually bend to listeners throughout Hiding, Mingling, and let listeners any closer to Nate Nelson's true songwriting drive, some readers may scoff and quibble that the album is less enjoyable, but it's not true. In fact, repeated plays will find listeners revisiting those cool, giant open spaces and hole up in them for sanctuary, and hope to make them their own. Why? Because they are beautiful and serene and, under the right circumstances, such climes can win hearts truly.



White Violet – Hiding, Mingling – “4 AM” [mp3]
White Violet – Hiding, Mingling – “Lays Around Lazy” – [mp3]


Hiding, Mingling
will be released on August 14, 2012 via Normaltown/RED General Catalog. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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