Arriving just in time to catch Swindon schoolteacher Garri Nash by weekday, ambient acoustic musician N/SH by gig-nights, at one of the early mini-festivals of The Crown at Bishop’s Cannings this summer, I’d missed local covers band Paradox play before him. It perhaps wasn’t the most appropriate follow, Paradox roused the audience with lively renowned covers, and N/SH is at best a niche market of downtempo original compositions.
Though it’s in the recording studio, or at a music venue geared towards original and acoustic artists where we see him shine. Recreational Trespass is out today, up on Bandcamp with pressings forthcoming from Genepool Records in Plymouth. It’s an album amidst a prolific discography, though Garri himself states he’s “still the ‘new boy on the block’ out there as far as music is concerned.”
And what he does is new, not least unique, if the track Afterstorm on this release gives you goosebumps about the intro to U2’s The Streets Have no Name, yes, it sounds similar, but stays with that intro’s mood, symbolically N/SH’s style, it doesn’t bang into the heavy rock riff, it rarely “goes off.” Neither is dub a component, with its wildly adjusting tenors and erratic tempo changes. This just softens, simple as electronica outfits such as Tangerine Dream, but with rock’s ingredients to boot.
They all glide mellowly, fragments of abstract thought, and also, unlike the ambient house of The Orb, or KLF, I find myself scrambling for comparisons with, neither do they linger too long. There’s no soundscape of winds blowing, or a dog barking in the distance for twenty minutes prior to a beat kicking in, they’re comparatively shorter, clips, often hazy and artistically composed; when one chain of thought expires, the song does too, occasionally abruptly, and it’s onto the next, like a rough book of juxtaposed ideas.
If I’m to make comparisons, you’d have to imagine Cat Stevens with modern tech. N/SH’s innermost mind must be a perpetual swirl of ideas, if he wrote comedy, it’d a sketch show rather than a sitcom. But comedy doesn’t come into play here, dunno why I mentioned it really! Solemn and dejected the themes wallow, often hinging on limb, lo-fi and distant, as if you’re only a passer-by in this reverie.
I tried to address where this inimitable style came from. Passing off my ambient house acquaintance, of student days of yore, Garri explained “for me, the ambient is more influenced by Sigur Ros, Fink, etc, which is more chilled. I know Ambient House has its own genre but I’m told mine is indie, alternative. BBC use this for my genre, and now some electronic.”
“Folktronic,” I said was a term penned by David Gray, and I like this tag, but N/SH felt it sounded too Americana to suit. “I’m definitely not that,” he expressed, “or folk, which I’ve been labelled with before but hey, it’s what people hear.” Though a lengthy conversation pursued around precise genre-labelling, we found common ground on the ethos of nah, mate, against pigeonholes, they’re for pigeons only; I’m just trying to pin it down for descriptive purposes here.
Yet I find myself troubled in pinning it, it’s acoustic with soundscape backing tracks, it’s artistic expression equally as much as music, and I’m a sucker for the alternative rulebreakers. For others, I guess it’s Marmite; that said, I blow their advertising slogan out of the window, because I can take it or leave it!
Engulfed in this album though, it takes a few listens, adjustments from the norm, and there’s a lot going on subject matter-wise, poetically dishevelled and sporadically misplaced, it makes for an interesting listen. Alone on a showery eve, it’ll make your cup of tea go cold, as you stare at raindrops descending down the window, consenting it to draw you into its melting portrayals.
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