Nathan Bowles is part of the constellation of bright young Americana stars flickering the Paradise Of Bachelors galaxy, figures who’ve been bringing new life to centuries-old rustic sounds in recent years. The Blacksburg, Virginia musician has been a sideman for Steve Gunn and a member of the Black Twig Pickers and Pelt, and next week he unveils his third solo album. Whole & Cloven, premiering here today in full, is a striking collection of Appalachian folk music refracted through the lens of experimental composition. Some background from Bowles:
Whole & Cloven is my third solo record, but it’s the first of those in which I felt confident enough to let the sound of the banjo guide the proceedings without necessarily being the central element. The pieces evolved slowly over a period of months, and I allowed myself to follow each song’s streams and eddies as suggested by their individual geographies As I continue to hone my voice in the space between improvisation and composition, it becomes increasingly clearer to me that my proclivity for wood, membranes, and vibrating strings generally boils down to this fact: I like to bang on things and hear the results. Thanks for lending an ear to these particular results.
They are certainly results worth hearing. The chilling piano solo “Chiaroscuro” is practically classical music, while the propulsive “Blank Range/Hog Jank II” will have you envisioning rushing rivers, picturesque pines, and a breeze gathering into a storm. “I Miss My Dog” blooms from a simple, spare lament into a panorama of sound. And then there’s “Moonshine Is Sunshine,” the one time a human voice shows up to slice across the landscape, reminding you there’s a brilliant human mind behind these gorgeous peaks and valleys. It amounts to one of the loveliest albums of the year, and you can stream the whole thing below.