Following last year’s critically acclaimed ‘On Leaving’ album, Nina Nastasia makes a rapid return with a stunning collaborative album with Jim White, the peerless drummer of beloved Australian instrumental trio, Dirty Three. Stripped back yet further for Nina to just a two-piece (drums, guitar, vocal), this is a fantastically focused record - a taut, raw document of two incredible musicians in deep dialogue, exploring the boundaries of songform to find a rare and striking complement.
‘You Follow Me’ is Nina’s second outing for FatCat, and her fifth career album. Overwhelmingly lauded for each discrete release, Nina has a way of immerging invention into a consistent style. Having established a reputation as an incredibly instinctive and distinctive drummer, Jim White has become a guest musician of choice for acts such as Will Oldham / Bonnie Prince Billy, The Boxhead Ensemble, Smog, Nick Cave, and countless others, yet this is the first record to bear his own name. His first appearance with Nina Nastasia came at the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival in 2002, just before they recorded her ‘Run to Ruin’ album. He has been a perennial member of Nina’s backing band ever since, making several appearances with her internationally.
Of this collaboration, Nina states plainly, "it was Jim's idea". White proposed the concept to Nastasia whilst the two were preparing to record Nina's recent ‘On Leaving’ album. Playing low-profile gigs together in out-of-the-way haunts in Brooklyn and Chicago, there was something so unusual and affecting about the way the songs came out that Jim felt it could make a compelling record. Whilst Jim had headed back to Melbourne for the summer, Nina took time to decide. Considering she had other ideas for the tunes they had been playing, she figured, "it made more sense to sit down and make something from scratch with our thing in mind". So that's what she did. In a short while, Nina had completed a dozen first person narratives on pursuit (There Is No Train, I Come After You), being pursued (I’ve Been Out Walking, “Odd”, Said The Doe) and what comes between (In The Evening, and Nastasia’s Our Discussion [of The Matter], formerly titled The Matter [of Our Discussion], which won electronic artist Boom Bip press for his 2005 remix of the song.
Jim flew back to New York, and the two spent a month with Nina's long-time companion and musical organizer Kennan Gudjonsson developing and arranging the songs. "[Kennan] worked the same way he's done for all the records", says Nina, "Like a producer in the old sense”, helping strike a balance between Nastasia’s delicate structures and White’s brillliantly expansive interpretations. The three brought the music to friend and engineer Steve Albini to record it at his celebrated Electrical Audio studio in Chicago. Albini’s bent for capturing a bare voice and the tangible depth of drums made for what he calls, "a cool-ass record".
With Nina’s extraodinary voice able to swoop and turn on a dime, to shift from a langorous, breathy trail to beautifully emotive peals or a bloodied howl, Jim’s highly inventive playing (the word drumming seems a somehow inadequate or lazy to description) is simultaneously loose and lithe, intensely tight, testing and marking out the spaces around things; changing weight from a dissipated shimmer to explosive shrapnel bursts or weird machine-flurries – both functional and impressionistic. What results from the meeting is a series of songs that emerge in a process of almost continual invention. They unfurl and stretch out, expand and contract, always fluid and organic – as though the songs themselves were living and breathing entities. The space hewn out is in flux and deeply three-dimensional, an almost cubist commingling of events, perspectives and possibilities. The more you listen, the more you pick up. With the recordings close-up and sensual / visceral, it’s a passionate, emotive album articulating a spectrum (both lyrically and musically) that ranges from driven rage to a loving sensual warmth.
There’s something in the title, ‘You Follow Me’ - perhaps a sort of anthology of aspects of following - that adumbrates the very relationship of two musicians performing at the height of their powers, somewhere between a duel and a dance, where the leading foot shifts from movement to movement.