Nathaniel Noton-Freeman – Seabirds

Seabirds cover art

Artist Nathaniel Noton-Freeman
Album ‘Seabirds’
Genre Post-rock / Instrumental
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Label Independent
Release MarĀ 3 2013
Rating Solid

This had to happen at some point. Nathaniel Noton-Freeman‘s music has until now been entirely composed using nothing but acoustic guitar tracks built atop other acoustic guitar tracks. ‘Whorl’ demonstrated that intelligent songwriting and delicate-yet-complex musicianship is in itself enough to captivate and inspire. ‘Whorl’ was unique and therefore intriguing, but beneath all of this it was evident that, by restricting his vessel to acoustic guitars alone, Nathaniel was imposing seemingly unnecessary boundaries upon his music. ‘Cairn’ took this restricted philosophy even further by limiting the songs to a single layer of acoustic guitar. It seems now that the shackles have been dispelled.

And the results are mixed. There’s no way of avoiding the fact that upon shedding its “gimmick”, Nathaniel’s music would be destined to lose some of its unique appeal. This is somewhat true, but that doesn’t mean that what we’re left with isn’t still worthwhile and entertaining post-rock. I love the arpeggiated synth sounds in “Op. 1 – Fishes” — the track carries a joyous energy that is often absent from soft ambient/post-rock music such as this. Nathaniel’s music carries the positive aura that often comes only with more upbeat post-rock bands such as Moonlit Sailor, whilst maintaining the delicate wistfulness and romance of more ambient bands such as Helios. It’s in the approach and composition that allows Nathaniel’s music to stay within its niche.

On the other hand I still feel that Nathaniel has more to learn and room to grow with this style of music. ‘Seabirds’ marks the first time that this artist’s music has had such a strong focus on pedal effects, and it appears that Nathaniel perhaps got a little too excited when exploring these new territories. The delay effects that permeate many of the instrumental layers simultaneously are overbearing. There’s often just too much going on at any one time. This doesn’t become a problem when ‘Seabirds’ is enjoyed quietly and in the background, but when close attention is paid, perhaps with headphones, then the production flaws become apparent.

But don’t read too much into that, because Nathaniel’s music is just as delicate and enjoyable as it ever was, except that he now brings to the table a greater palette for crafting music, and the result only serves to make me even more excited for what’s to come. The songwriting and musicianship is all there with ‘Seabirds’; there’s a sense that the production was slightly off the mark, however that’s something that can easily be worked on for future releases.