Nina Nastasia and Jim White are no strangers to one another. Since Nastasia’s 2003 outing Run to Ruin, the two have been frequent collaborators, White’s percussion lending a certain sense of power and strength to Nastasia’s sparse and emotionally naked songwriting. Up until now, however, White has been just one of several musicians to have played on Nastasia’s records, as strings and piano had come to be subtle yet striking factors in the haunted moodiness of Run to Ruin or On Leaving. With You Follow Me, the record belongs to both Nastasia and White, and those two alone, making White’s performance all the more essential to the recording itself.
With only two musicians at play, You Follow Me is strikingly bare, as only acoustic guitar, drums and voice occupy the space on this album. There aren’t layers and layers of overdubs, there is merely the conversation between two musicians, a melodic dialogue of their instrumentation, with Nastasia’s vocals providing their own sense of gorgeous instrumentation. And yet, it’s the immediacy and power of each instrument that marks this record as such a departure. Where subtlety and barely-there arrangements were the wispy backbone to Nastasia’s compositions in the past, those to be heard on this album seem to pop from the speakers, clearly making their presence known with a sort of abstract heaviness. With no bass or orchestration, leadoff track “I’ve Been Out Walking” provides one of the most direct and, for that matter, louder moments these musicians have caught on tape together.
“I Write Down Lists” has a similar feel but with greater distances between its peaks of volume and valleys of silence. White plays a brushed, jazzy beat that ultimately begins to unravel into a complex, arrhythmic rumble. A similar sort of thing happens mid-way through “Odd Said The Doe,” though this song in particular is among the most accessible here, a melodic, beautiful standout, one that perfectly juxtaposes Nastasia’s quiet intensity with White’s outwardly manic pounding. It’s a beautiful and curious synergy between two seemingly incongruous parts, coming together as a delicate, yet devastating force.
Whether White dances around Nastasia’s melody on “Our Discussion” or the two create a solid rhythmic stomp on “In the Evening,” the two have a chemistry that is not only emotionally powerful and mellifluous, but fluid as well. You Follow Me is an intimate recording, and a short one at only 31 minutes, yet there’s a potency to it that could rival albums played at ten times the volume.
Nina Nastasia – On Leaving
Hem – Rabbit Songs
Cat Power – Moon Pix
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.