Natural Child “Okey Dokey” (Independent, 2016)

natural-childNC aren’t one of those bands that can be easily pigeon-holed. By turns here they resemble Ween, Can, a boogie-band or an experimental jazz rock combo. They can be perplexing, joyful or frustrating – you can’t settle into a NC record, it’s a switchback ride, where you crank up really high and then plunge. Thus ‘Self-Titled Blues’ creates a gorgeous simmering atmosphere full of somnambulist organ, relaxed guitar and harmony rich vocals. Then next up is the space-funk of ‘Benny’s Here’ which for six and a half minutes takes us on a trip through the work of Blue Note luminaries such as Grant Green.

‘It’s A Shame My Store Isn’t Open’ tips its hat more towards mystical works of Alice Coltrane. If you’ve got this far, you may be wondering why this review is on AUK. Well NC are at heart a rock band, one in the image of freewheelers like NRBQ, effortlessly inventive and relentlessly traditional. ‘Out of Sight’ is how the Avett Brothers might sound if they had discovered Krautrock rather than the sugar bowl, ‘Now and Then’ shows the other perspective being significantly closer to the Avetts rather than Can. ‘Transcendental Meditation’ is built on similar motorik chassis but this one is driven by the irreverence and humour of Ween.

The title track opens up the experimental side of the record, eschewing the song-based architecture and the harmonies in favour of driving rhythms and a guitar style that Nels Cline would be familiar with. As noted NC are hard to pin down, half good-old-boys playing for beer money, half experimental musicians, it’s fun to listen to these two tendencies gaining and losing the upper hand. There’s seldom a moment where you can be sure of what is coming next and what does arrive isn’t often what you were expecting, which makes for an interesting listen.

Author: David Cowling

Punk rock, Go-Betweens, REM, Replacments, Husker Du, Minutemen, Will Oldham, Smog, Whiskeytown, Ass Ponys but probably most of all Howe Gelb, led me on this journey.

Leave a Reply