[7 September 2009]
When after comprehensive listens, a record still evokes the notion of atmospheres or certain immeasurable landscapes, one can’t help but wonder if this is a plus or a minus for the record and artist. Has the record managed to dig deep into the listener’s subconscious, setting up shop within resources only few could hope to tap? Or has the record pigeonholed itself as a piece of mood music, only seemingly attainable with the aid of external factors? Naturally, this depends from record to record. As Good as Gone, the fourth LP from the impossible to contain Nudge, features an ebb and flow that remains so daunting yet fresh that it won’t be leaving your subconscious anytime soon.
Never having heard Nudge before (and finding very little in the way of background info online), I was slightly wary before I hit play. With nothing but a bland painting of a howling wolf adorning the cover, my skepticism was palpable to say the least.
But let me state the obvious when appreciating the spacey, comfortable drone of As Good as Gone: Never judge a book by its cover. And never be afraid to let your preconceived notions of how a record should sound prevent you from a sonic odyssey like As Good as Gone.
Opening with “Harmo”, a five-minute horn and harmonica-induced trip through the ever expanding confines of space rock, Nudge make five minutes feel like a blissful eternity. Perhaps this is where As Good as Gone borders on mood music that is susceptible to external factors: if you’re feeling edgy or incomplete, “Harmo” may very well annoy the shit out of you. But if you’re eager for a ride, it’s the perfect start.
“Two Hands” features the angelic vocals of Honey Owens rather prominently, amidst a scratchy, hypnotic dub beat. At this point, if you’re still game for the journey, figuring out where As Good as Gone will head next is a lost cause. Whereas originally I had this record pegged as something of a Sigur Ros rip-off, it’s soon obvious that Nudge went into the recording of As Good as Gone with very little in mind as far as direction.
“Aurolac”, quite possibly the album’s standout track, somehow makes six and a half minutes sound imminent as possible. Guitars ripple out a lingering Sparklehorse-esque vibe. A wall of echos do their best to encourage listener participation, but by this point, As Good as Gone has released a tranquilizing dose of sorrow and space. Though only seven tracks in size (yet clocking in at 39 minutes), it’s during this fourth track, which resonates with optimism, that listeners will probably fish or cut bait on As Good as Gone.
Records ripe with palpable emotion (and fist in the air choruses) often get tagged as being “not for the faint of heart.” When the “Dawn Comes Light”, the eight-and-a-half minute closer kicks into its rousing, synth-laden crescendo, I realized that this As Good as Gone isn’t for the faint of head. Granted, those not in the mood for Nudge’s spaced-out symphonic sounds probably wouldn’t hold a dead rat near this record, but that’s neither here nor anywhere. If you’ve got a patient ear to lend, clear some time and space in your top floor and fall under the spell.