Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Nina Nastasia's paint-stripped cello

Think of the cello and – chances are – the sounds that first come to your mind's ear are sonourous, sweet-toned, full and vibrato-laden.

And, yep, the cello does all that rather well. People are always saying what a beautiful sound the instrument makes.

To my mind, that's to do with the fact that it has similar sonic characteristics and range to the human voice. Its tone is naturally pleasing to many people's ears.

... But – just like a human voice – it's an instrument that can just as effectively achieve unusual, less sweetly melifluous sounds.

Lots has been done with sweet, beautiful cello tones – and these have their place, undoubtedly – but it tends to be the more edgy, unexpected sounds (the cellistic equivalant of Kurt Cobain, Joanna Newsom or Scout Niblett's vocals) that particularly interest me, in modern cello music – as this week's Heavy Soil selections will doubtless illustrate.

Today's song, then, is Judy's In The Sandbox – from Nina Nastasia's superb album Dogs. (Download mp3 via Yousendit)

The cello here is desiccated. Brittle, rough. So much so that there's an element of fingernails-on-blackboard to the sound. The way the notes squeak and fluke between octaves.

Absolutely no vibrato, no sweetening. This is a paint-stripped cello tone. Fantastically appropriate for the song.

(On a non-cellistic note: love that huge, warm, woofing bass drum sound, and the nicely-captured finger-noise on the bass guitar from around 2.30. And great use of silence after 'breath'.)

For a bonus point (yes, okay, 'Bonus to what?' you're asking): guess who was at the recording console for this song?


stu said...


For my money, Run To Ruin is by far her best record. It's downright unsettling in a way nothing else she's ever done has managed.

Tom Parnell said...

Yes! Stuart gets the bonus point.

Now we just have to work out how one gets *regular* points. Any ideas? Blogging about Shatner? That's got to count for at least 10.

(Stuart seems to be winning, then.)

I don't actually *have* Run to Ruin, annoyingly. But will seek it out directly.

halem said...

I must say I prefer Dogs to Run to Ruin...

Also want to get On Leaving. I hear it's good.

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