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CD Feature/ Nathan Hubbard: "Blind Orchid"

img  Tobias

If it is indeed true, as Nathan Hubbard believes, that the room and the drum are inherently the same and both “resonant objects with an implied need for activity”, then he has certainly chosen the right instruments – this man can’t sit still! Just like the cover art to his second solo CD could be depicting satellite shots of roads leading in all directions at the same time, while crossing and penetrating each other’s lines on every level, “Blind Orchid” is a statement of energy, action and flurry, as well as a confession of love for the sounds of percussions.

In Hubbard’s world, at least, a drum is still a drum. Large parts of the material on display here either consist of him playing his kit against a backdrop of processed noise or of mixing up to eight prerecorded tracks over and against one another. In any case, the original character of his toms, hihats, bassdrums and snares is saved throughout most of the disc’s running time. Just like there are various layers to the artwork, there are different degrees of complexity with regards to this approach.

“Circle within a circle”, a tribute to architect and visual artist Max Neuhaus, was realised with a simple setup of a percussion and a tape backing. In a full length clip, Hubbard demonstrates his technique and watching him use ethereal, floating dronescapes as a starting point, gently coaxing them with cowbells, before rubbing his brushes against the drumhead and conjuring up rumbling rhythms until the piece attains a raw jazz vibe is one of the reasons Youtube does make sense after all.

“Close to the Margin” and the title track are more intricate works with more extensive arrangements, which include plate chimes, amplified grates, radio, a selection of metal and diverse overdubs synced with the live performance. This also hints at the mood of the entire record: Hubbard feels best when there are several things happening at the same time, some of them within, others beyond his control. The combination of predictable events (such as the prepared music) and the spontaneous reaction to them makes this an agile and colourful affair, which needs to be consumed wide-awake, if you don’t want to miss a thing.

It is hard for me to say whether “Blind Orchid” supports the idea of the equality between drum and room. Even though each track places the instruments somewhere else in the same space (Marcos Fernades’ Termite Studios in California) and plays with the positioning of the microphone, not all of this is completely apparent without prior knowledge of the creative process. What it has translated to, however, is that the album maintains a certain purity of instrumentation, while managing to lend each work an atmosphere of its own. A drum may still be a drum, but with Nathan Hubbard, it sounds surprisingly fresh.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Nathan Hubbard
Homepage: Accretions Records

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