Nina Nastasia


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Dogs (1998) , 6.5/10
The Blackened Air (2002) , 6.5/10
Run To Ruin (2003), 6/10
On Leaving (2006), 5/10
Outlaster (2010), 5/10
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Nina Nastasia's Dogs (Socialist, 1999) revealed her masterful technique in telling stories. The Los Angeles-born but New York-based troubadour whispers tunes soaked in subdued, interior aching (not unlike Nico) and wraps them in understated arrangements for country/folk ensemble. The lyrics are epigrams (Underground) rather than chronicles, the music recalls nursery rhymes (Judy's In The Sandbox, A Dog's Life) rather than ponderous folk tales. The overall feeling is dark (even macabre in Roadkill) rather than bright; ominous (Too Much In Between, Nobody Knew Her) rather than entertaining.

For her second album, The Blackened Air (Touch & Go, 2002), Nina Nastasia, again, avails herself of string and wind instrumentation. The overall atmosphere is just a tad more tragic, while retaining the unique hypnotic power, with perhaps a few more explicit nods to folk and country music. Run All You opens as a Leonard Cohen dirge before soaring into a majestic waltz. A thick atmosphere of drama permeates the pounding heartbeat and the violin drones of This Is What It Is, and the terrifying sweetness of the lullaby Ugly Face, where the singer's doleful tone seems to be literally "weeping" the song.
Traditional country picking and yodeling support Oh My Stars, In The Graveyard, So Little. The orchestration is intriguing and often mesmerizing (as in the brief baroque square dance of All For You), but Nastasia seems to get closer to her true vision with the simplicity and sparseness of Desert Fly, with the dreamy and ghostly The Same Day, with the delicate and surreal tapestry of Ocean

The brief Run To Ruin (Touch & Go, 2003) is far less engaging than the first two albums. Vocals prevail when the going gets tough, as in You Her And Me, Superstar, The Body, but often sound (acoustic guitar, string section, dulcimer, accordion, piano) prevails, particularly in the shallow Superstar and Regrets Strings have a cathartic effect on the gloomy We Never Talked I Say That I Will Do, like the wind at the end of an overcast day. This album does not add anything to Nastasia's canon. It detracts a bit because it shows how much she relies on the arrangements, and how little her lyrics matter.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Jacopo Fiorentino)

Dogs (Socialist, 1999) di Nina Nastasia ha rivelato la sua grande tecnica nel raccontare storie. La cantautrice, nata a Los Angeles ma residente a New York, sussurra melodie intrise di una sofferenza sottomessa, interiore (non diversamente da Nico) e le avvolge in classici arrangiamenti country/folk. I testi sono epigrammi (Underground) piuttosto che cronache, la musica richiama piu' la leggerezza delle filastrocche (Judy's In The Sandbox, A Dog's Life) che non la pesantezza dei racconti folk. La sensazione complessiva e' scura (perfino macabra in Roadkill) piu' che luminosa, minacciosa (Too Much In Between, Nobody Knew Her) piu' che d'intrattenimento.

Per il suo secondo album, The Blackened Air (Touch & Go, 2002), Nina Nastasia, nuovamente, si avvale di una strumentazione di archi e fiati. L'atmosfera complessiva e' leggermente pió tragica, rimane il particolare potere ipnotico, con d'altra parte piu' espliciti accenni alla musica folk e country. Run All You si apre come una ballata malinconica alla Leonard Cohen prima di innalzarzi in un valzer maestoso. Una spessa atmosfera drammatica permea il ritmo martellante e il graffiare dei violini in This Is What It Is, e la terrificante dolcezza della ninna nanna Ugly Face, dove il dolente tono della cantante sembra letteralmente "piangere" la canzone.
Un modo di suonare e di cantare tradizionalmente country accompagnano Oh My Stars, In The Graveyard, So Little. L'orchestrazione e' intrigante e spesso ipnotizzante (come nella breve danza barocca All For You), ma Nastasia, tuttavia, sembra assomigliare maggiormente a se stessa nella semplice e diradata Desert Fly, nella onirica e spettrale The Same Day, nel delicato e surreale arazzo di Ocean

Il breve Run To Ruin (Touch & Go, 2003) e' molto meno attraente dei primi due album. Il cantato prevale quando l'andamento si fa duro, come in You Her And Me, Superstar, The Body, ma sono i suoni (chitarra acustica, sezione di archi, dulcimer, accordion, piano) ad assumere pió spesso maggiore importanza, specialmente nelle superficiali Superstar e Regrets Gli archi hanno un effetto catartico nelle oscure We Never Talked e I Say That I Will Do, come fa il vento alla fine di una giornata nuvolosa. Questo album non aggiunge molto alla statura di Nastasia. Le toglie qualcosa, semmai, perche' lascia intravedere le sue lacune sugli arrangiamenti e la poca sostanza dei suoi testi.

Given that Nastasia's voice and lyrics are not particularly original or captivating (except for One Old Woman), and the arrangements tend to be predictable, it is left to the melodies to give a sense of relevance to On Leaving (FatCat, 2006), notably Counting Up Your Bones. Most of the songs are so short that they represent (perhaps intentionally) only a general idea of what she had to say, as sometimes less is more. But, then, sometimes more would be just that: more.

The mini-album You Follow Me (2007) was a collaboration with Dirty Three's drummer Jim White that highlighted Nastasia's ability to build up psychological intensity with the most minimal of means (The Day I Would Bury You).

Outlaster (Fatcat, 2010) was basically a collaboration with Paul Bryan, who arranged the music of a chamber ensemble to embellish her simple folk ballads.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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