Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dirty Projector Nat Baldwin and his bass

Posted By on 03.28.12 at 04:54 PM

Nat Baldwin
  • Nat Baldwin
Nat Baldwin is only the bass player in Dirty Projectors, but to judge by his latest solo recording, People Changes (Western Vinyl), the band's twisted aesthetic owes a lot to him. Most of the album is just Baldwin bowing his double bass (using tricky harmonics, thick double stops, and upper-register dissonance) and singing wriggly pop melodies in his quavery, almost uncontainable voice—which makes him sound more than a little like David Longstreth of DPs. Baldwin has a serious jazz pedigree, including studies with Anthony Braxton at Wesleyan, but his chops never distract from the songs, no matter outre they get—several times on "Lifted," for instance, a free-jazz combo arrives out of the blue and vanishes just as quickly.

I'll admit that it took a few spins of People Changes for me to get with it—it sounds flat-out strange, and both the tunes and Baldwin's voice are bizarre, to say the least. But repeated listens allowed me to get beyond those eccentricities and hear the consistently surprising melodic shapes, the nonchalant virtuosity of his concise improvisations, and the counterintuitive ways his voice and bass collide and combine. Baldwin's music is maddening and seductive and definitely not built for casual listening. Because Dirty Projectors are gearing up for a new album and a tour this summer (which includes a Friday-night slot at the Pitchfork Music Festival), the brief solo trip Baldwin is taking now is something of a last hurrah for him, at least for the time being. He headlines the Hideout on Friday night; opening is the excellent jazz trio Sun Rooms, featuring vibist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Nate McBride, and drummer Mike Reed. Below you can check out a tune from Baldwin's record cowritten by former Chicagoan (and fellow Wesleyan grad) Matt Bauder, who plays the clarinet parts.

Nat Baldwin, "Weights"

Today's playlist:

Dennis Brown, Dennis Brown in Dub (Heartbeat)
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Orange (Major Domo)
Thelonious Monk, Monk. (Columbia)
Joe Newman/Cootie Williams, Jazz at Midnight (Gitanes)
STEAM-Group & Sven-Åke Johansson, Grand Electronic Suite (SÅJ)

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