Karl Blau, Nature’s Got Away
A strange and beautiful album about birds, trees, and sweet oblivion.
After more than dozen releases, Karl Blau still isn't as well known as past collaborators Phil Elverum and Laura Veirs. Appropriately, Nature's Got Away sounds like the work of someone accustomed to hanging in the background: Blau's dulcet piano and muted guitars sounds like he's playing the album at a comfortable distance. But Blau's got a way of occasionally jarring songs awake, especially when his voice turns strange tricks or his songwriting follows unlikely tangents.
Blau's woody baritone lends character to his songs. He sings about the birds and the trees, but his main concern is sweet oblivion: "Oh, to feel nothing, betwixt the tomb and the womb," he croons on "Nothing In The Way." When Blau explains human emotions on "Mockingbird Diet" he sings as though they stand between us and direct contact with nature. That's either profound philosophizing or drunken campfire talk; Blau doesn't care how it comes off. For every moment of sparse, halting drums and torch singing ("That's The Breaks"), there's a Thurston Moore impression ("Carry And Rob") or keyboard squiggles and Beck-like non sequiturs ("Moved On From Dreams"). A fog of guitar reverb creates a kind of pleasant, post-nap gauziness, and the repeated arpeggios on "Of Your Feet, Of Your Place" mirror the "mantra ringing in infinity, echoing in the divine" that Blau's hoping for. Luckily, Nature's Got Away has plenty of earthly delights too.