Peninsular Place


June 20, 2012

Unwavering Beam of…Light; Nathan K.’s Dishes

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Written by: Jeff Milo
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The songs in Nathan Klages’ head don’t pay back his mountains of debt but he’s got bigger concerns: like, the meaning of life, or the ghosts of our imaginations and just who paints all these drab colors on hospital wall waiting rooms.

Stream of conscious narratives never sounded so melodious…

Listen: Nathan K. – “Leave Them”

Nathan K’s. songs always did come dressed with hearts embroidered on sleeves, but heretofore the Ann Arbor strummer was wringing out those wide-eyed autumnal verses of a wanderlust-stricken 20-something sporadically couch-surfing his way down south on self-booked tours into improvised performance spaces plodding and pickin’ whatever eclectic gaggle of instruments he could pack.

On Dishes he’s staying still, he had to, actually. He’s older now, his voice is lower, ached and crackily like snapped timber, on winding verses and sailing along wispy wooed choruses, many of them wordless. K.(lages) penned and demoed these tracks inside a hospital waiting room and at the edge of his grandfather’s death bed. You hear clichés like albums being diary-esque, or, that sometimes certain lo-fi folk-leaning, pastoral-poets are recreating the guttural catharsis of a Springsteen-ian Nebraska trip. Well, I’m sorry, but: yes and yes – Klages new album (June 26) summons both of those…

Klages put these bittersweet jangles and minimalist musings down to tape inside a hospital waiting room on nights he couldn’t sleep. Before his grandfather faded, he was able to sing for him and play his guitar, violin and banjo. The 4-track demos were really just to pass the time, ease his heart and his mind. After the funeral, he put the songs away; even forgot about them for a time, actually.

Darin Rajabian (of AA electronica/dance-pop duo Nightlife) met with Klages to record the 2nd proper Nathank K. full length album and asked if there were any rough cuts to review before they got started.

Just as in the case with Springsteen’s starkly beautiful, coarse catharsis in Nebraska –Rajabian insisted that the songs Klages dug back out, the ones from the hospital, had to stay pretty much just-the-way-they-were…that the record was ready, essentially, once Klages left the hospital; all that was left was some bass to add and Rajabian’s mixing work, and here we are:

The album itself is not as melancholic as my intro might lead one to believe; the lead single “Leave Them” is warmed by rousing handclaps and the sunburst chime of electric guitar while K. coos a wavy melody, a mantra in a lullaby-ish lilt as it casts out distractive elements, self-doubt, regret or any other long-gone bygone. Songs like this, breezy tempos and shambling guitars, are the kind to come back to life with, for when the woozy wears off and you feel like you can just start blinking again, just coming back in the wakes of personal/familial tragedy.

The fuzzy percussion and whispery twang of guitars under distorted vocals opening “Ghosts” fall and delicately billow like the chilly drizzles curtaining the end of a parting storm clouds, makes you wanna sigh, makes you wanna go for a walk, makes you wanna go somewhere. Find something.

Still dark at points, still haunting, for sure; looking inward so directly often has that effect…His sense for the heavy has evolved, his keenness on atmosphere, his backing tracked vocals often haunting his verses in shadowy half-beat-behind-harmonies and the thrum of sonorous guitars just hovering out like woodsmoke in the sunset’s bright orange rays.

This is a diary, in that often overly-employed/clichéd sense, a maturing singer/songwriter, singing death in the face, writing in one room and contemplating many other rooms of various kinds, constructed or corporeal, that he’s inhabited, heretofore. And, yes, the richness of the music, those crackling banjos and demurely drifting violin strings, blend together to match the bulk of the ballads’ lyrics.

“Dishes”, out 6/26 via

About the Author

Jeff Milo
Jeff Milo
Jeff is another awesome member of the iSPY team.

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