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Sunday, May 9, 2010

52. "Know" by Nick Drake

It's often a surprisingly emotional moment when I first see what The Machine has picked for me. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I get excited, but this one was something else. Kinda gave me a chill. I probably whistled or muttered something profane. Pink Moon is a famously stark, minimal and harrowing record, and this song is probably the starkest, minimalest and harrowingest one on it. For someone as deft and literate as Drake to put forward a song which not only doesn't have a chord structure, but doesn't even have a chord at all-- the guitar line has all of four notes to it; the vocal has two more-- says something, and the words are even more fatalistic and scary. Drake's has long been the rock and roll (?) tragedy closest to my heart, devoid as it is of extenuating circumstances like drugs, booze, bad relationships, corporate abuse or whatever else. The man was simply depressive, which, at baseline, is my problem as well, and where he's at on this song is a natural place at the low end of the cycle. I almost didn't want to sing it. Honestly. Just wasn't sure I wanted those sentiments out there in the world in my voice.

Musically I knew right away that I didn't want to do a straight cover, but nor did I want to trick it out as one of those chillout remixes that were springing up a few years back during Nick's post-VW-ad posthumous hipster heyday. I took my cue from the sparse, tasteful strings on earlier Drake records, some of which were contributed by John Cale, the coolest human being on the planet, and had Eden lay down some viola. Added a few near-Ostrich guitars and there it was. And I did sing it. There are all kinds of soupy effects on the ambient instruments, but the vocal is dry as a bone. I sang it directly into this crazy compressor mic I'd set up to capture the strings on the acoustic, and it was really hard to not breathe on the thing. As I was putting it away I noticed that it had a windscreen in its case. Oops.

Eden Hain ~ violas (violae?)
Rex Broome ~ everything else

1 comment:

  1. Stunning work. Well done sticking through this song despite trepidation.