Archive for the ‘Nature Trails’ Category

Nature Trails — In Glass

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Nature Trails sound like they could have come from anywhere. This isn’t intended as a slur against the band, but rather an attempt to describe their immediate sense of timelessness and internationality. The foreboding gothic vocals, which could have come from London or New York, the mix of 80’s cold wave with modern digital recording, their characteristic use of only a single guitar and bass. It’s all very in-line with international, rather than local trends in the genre, exemplified by experimental gothic revival bands like Algiers, The Soft Moon, or Trust. It’s an interesting sound to hear in Australia, and especially from somewhere like Brisbane, a city which is hardly known for its worldliness or internationality. That being said, the internet is everywhere, and the existence of any kind of identifiably local trends in influences or sounds shouldn’t be seen as any less of an anomaly than bands like Nature Trails that could have come from anywhere. Still, it remains relatively rare to hear an album from Australia that sounds this little like the product of an Australian band. First of all, there’s little hint of any kind of influence from shoegaze, building comparable depth and power with layers of subtlety constructed digital synths, rather than the wall-of-noise distorted guitars more common to the genre in Australia. It’s also got a bigger focus on harmony than anything you might have heard this year, while somehow sharing little of the pop sensibilities expressed by similarly melodic Australian bands like Soviet X-Ray Record Club, Nite Fields, or Day Ravies. It is, in short, an incredibly confident, surprising debut album, one that’s definitely worth a listen if you’re into goth or cold wave.

Opening track ‘Chaste’ begins with trashy 4/4 drum machine percussion and retro darkwave synths, with a classic gothic vocal line reminiscent of genre-defining 80’s vocalists like Peter Murphy or Andrew Eldritch, built on the back of a strong, repeating guitar riff. Their sound is at once nostalgic and recognisably modern, with its crisp digital production allowing all the instrumental elements in the track to stand apart from one another while still contributing to the densely layered music of the whole. It’s atmospheric without being overwhelming, with the careful use of subtlety layered synthesizers and guitar effects making for a sound that feels much denser and heavier than a closer listen reveals the songs to be. The guitar riff and synth lines repeat until monotony, creating a droning, hopeless sort of an affect: exactly the sort of bleak but beautiful emotions darkwave is designed to create. ‘Hollow State’ begins with a smoky, jazz-noir type of sound reminiscent of the Twin Peaks score, adding in a gothic vocal line to create a laid-back, almost dream-pop kind of feeling, despite working from an almost completely different set of musical influences. ‘Fragment’ is the same, with militaristic drumming and parallel guitar and bass lines, taking elements of classic cold wave, goth, and post-punk and turning them into this romantic, contemporary pastiche, which evokes nostalgia for the classic goth of times gone by, while sounding distinctly different to all of it. The synths are clean and probably digital, but they’re mixed and recorded so well that they feel like they’re authentic. ‘In Glass’ sounds like it could have come out in the 1980’s, while relying on digital synths and hi-fi recording practices that are all 2015. It gives the album a kind of ageless quality: neither throwback, nor revival, but a modern recreation of an older set of sounds and emotions. It’s similar to the breakout debut Silence Yourself from London band Savages in 2013, but recorded and performed independently, without any apparent kind of industry support or record company backing.

This too is a strength of the album, and an indicator of raw, creative potential of the modern music scene. If Nature Trails can create a sound like this, on their own, in a studio in Brisbane, without any kind of prompting from the wider music industry; an album that’s retro, contemporary, authentic, and distinctive, all at once… How can anyone ever say that the industry’s in trouble? We live in an age where possibilities for creative expression are broader and more accessible than ever before, where high-quality new material in almost any genre can be produced by anyone, at any time, without the limitations of market-centric demands from record labels, local venues, or the radio. Nature Trails do their own thing, and they do it very well, and because of that they can be heard and praised for their achievements. It doesn’t matter if they’re young. It doesn’t matter if they’re old. All that matters is their music and the way it makes you feel. In this case, even money’s not a problem. ‘In Glass’ is available right now on Bandcamp, for whatever price you choose to make it. You can keep it forever if you like. What a wonderful album. What a time to be alive.