A Different Kind of Listening CD
The first time that I heard The Nationale Blue was at a basement show at a place called The House of Knives. Literally from out of nowhere right after the band stopped playing the sound hit me like a ton of bricks. The music was cranked up to the max on the PA system, and the speakers were blasting to the point where they were starting to distort. I knew right there and then I needed to find out who these guys were and obtain of a copy of their CD. When I finally found the kid who lived there, I immediately hit him up with the question at hand, "what CD is this?" He told me about The Nationale Blue. I was eager to see if the band's CD would live up to my high expectations.
The Nationale Blue is a trio consisting of Reuben Bettsak on guitar and vocals, Dave Altman on bass, and Adam Kriney on drums. The group originally formed from the ashes of the band called The Little Dipper (an emocore band) but has changed sounds to a format that is more improvisational and less restrictive. The current music combines the best of many genres, from jazz influences to spacy ambient moments with various effects to traditional progressive rock sounds with odd rhythms and frequent changes. The band also combines heavier and more rocking sounds with the occasional electronic component of synthesized drumbeats and bleeps here and there. The album flows quite well from track to track, and it's quite a long full- length, clocking in at around 70 minutes. Below are the tracks that have made the most impression and that I felt were intriguing.
The record starts out with an experimental intro track called "Loop Transversion," a highly electronically based soundscape featuring a drum machine along with delayed guitar. The song builds from a minute and a half into a bit of intensity and ends in pure noise. Immediately "Silver Alien Pyjamas in II Movements" (an instrumental track) comes in with xylophones and a crisp and clear drumbeat. The song eventually develops into soaring delays and spaciness and then everything kicks in at once. Guitars, bass, and drums come in together, repeating the same mathy melodic line. They change it up a bit by throwing in various transitions to softer and cleaner guitar before moving in to a more rocking part. The song is all over the place and constantly changing here and there, presenting the listener with catchy hooks and precise rhythms.
"Hope Without Saying" is my favorite track on the record, and this is also the track I heard at The House of Knives. It starts out with great intensity and aggression and develops into a spacier part with drones while Reuben Bettsak's vocals come full force. The vocals are halfway between singing and talking and work extremely effective throughout the song. Guitars race everywhere, turning quiet and melodic one moments to completely rocking out the next. "Secret Codes" is another track on the album that uses repetition and improvisation effectively. Guitar, bass, and drums blend together forming a darker melody that is haunting when it finally hits you. The vocals spoken/sung over bits of aggressiveness throughout the song. "Where the Hawks Fly" is an instrumental track starting with a penny whistle and recorder sound, giving the song an odd and interesting feel. Bass and drums eventually follow while the guitar plays a clean melody that is melodic and catchy.
A Different Kind of Listening is an impressive debut full length for the Nationale Blue. The album has a concept feeling to it where by all of the tracks fit together perfectly, making essentially one extremely long track. The band makes effective use of various instrumentation to accurately convey the right mood and tone to the listener but also presents a unique recording by blending many different styles into a palatable and interesting album. The CD definitely lives up to my previous expectations.