Natural Self

Exclusive Premiere and Interview – Natural Self – “Machine” / “The Valleys”

“Machine” / “The Valleys” is the first official single from Natural Self’s upcoming album ‘Neon Hurts My Eyes’, which follows in March, unveiling a striking departure for the producer and DJ as he takes on the role of singer-songwriter fully for the first time.

This official single comes after the upfront track “Red Wire Blue Wire” was leaked as a free download to introduce the revelatory new sound from Natural Self; showcasing an imaginative structure, dynamic beats and impishly offbeat vocal, it premiered with KCRW radio play and an online Clash feature to widespread praise from tastemakers, blogs and music fans, sparking much anticipation for more new material.

“Machine” / “The Valleys” now brings two more unique yet eminently radio-friendly tracks from the album, starkly contrasting in sound and feel.

“Machine”, with its driving melody and multi-layered synths, casts a chilly, bewildered atmosphere that is nonetheless packed with insanely catchy, smile-raising hooks; the lyrics reflecting on the uniform cult of cool. “It’s kind of a cold, cynical song in sound, but really it’s idealistic; it’s about meeting a certain kind of people that seem to be so concerned with their vision of being cool, they lose themselves and you can’t even tell who they are anymore. They lose a bit of their humanity… it’s really difficult to connect with them”, says Nathaniel Pearn, the man behind the Natural Self moniker.

The AA side is an inspired cover of the Electrelane song, “The Valleys”. It features the only guest vocals on the album, sung by Tanya Auclair and Milly Blue, alongside Pearn himself, and then layered heavily to recreate the choir sound of the original. Having been thinking about covering this track for years, Natural Self finally alighted on the formula, and his ambitious production brings a heavy groove and a spectral feel to this song.

While shades of his early hip hop, funk and tropical influences remain, fans of the distinctive style coined on Natural Self’s last two albums – 2008’s ‘The Art Of Vibration’ and 2009’s ‘My Heart Beats Like A Drum’ – will be forgiven a double take on hearing the new sounds pouring out of him. His inventive sonic landscape, a highly poised confection of beats, bleeps and noises drawn from a vast textural palette, is now more redolent of Radiohead and the Beta Band; while a tight, melodic pop-but-not-pop sensibility aligns the songs with Little Dragon or James Blake. Having previously enlisted guest singers including Andreya Triana for main vocals, here Natural Self lays himself bare. Immersive and synth-heavy, this is electronic music with warmth and heart, a sense of being at once futuristic and nostalgic as it explores themes of technology, the environment, the passing of time and our place in the world.

Since his last LP, Nathaniel Pearn has moved to London from the comfort zone of Brighton, and spent time touring the US; this shake-up has brought out new influences, a fresh perspective, a sense of urgency and the confidence, he says, “to do something different, something more cohesive – I wanted to push myself more. As much as I love production itself, I needed to do something live – where the music would come out of me.”
‘Neon Hurts My Eyes’ is out March 11th. Pre-order it from iTunes now: itunes.apple.com/gb/album/neon-hu…eyes/id591390928

What made you go solo?

I’ve in fact always been solo. That said, collaboration is something I’ve always enjoyed. For the most part it’s taken the form of working with guest vocalists or musicians and that’s something I’ll carry on doing.

You have a hip hop background, but this is quite a departure, was it something that you have always wanted to do?

It wouldn’t be quite accurate for me to claim a hip hop background in terms of being actively part of any hip hop scene but it certainly was the first sort of music that I got really into and it laid a foundation for things I subsequently got into. The culture of sampling in hip hop lead me to discover funk, jazz, latin, rock and the importance of exploring music that was made before one’s time. But the range of my taste has broadened considerably since then.

You have been described as creating a ‘sonic landscape’ What does that mean to you?

I’m not really sure! Others people descriptions are their own I guess. I’d hope that my music is immersive, that the listener is drawn in and surrounded by it. I try and create a sonic ‘environment’ but I’m not literally imagining mountains and deserts while I do so!

What have been your main influences in creating this album?

Mm…I always find it difficult to cherry pick specific artists or styles as influences. The main intention was to do a whole album of vocal music. I think some more ephemeral influences crept into the song writing via my subconscious. They’re actually easier for me to see in retrospect now that the album is done. So if I listen across the songs, it would appear I was in fact preoccupied with certain things! Technology and our relationship to it. Cities. Things seen from a distance. The consequences of our actions. Time.

What made you put together a live band?

The music I make as Natural Self is less club-orientated than ever, which is to say that now, it’s not club orientated at all. I used to DJ but over time this ceased to have any connection with the music I was making. I longed to be out in the world sharing my music with other people and exploring all the things that comes with that, good and bad!

What depth do you think they will bring to your live performances?

You mean the other players in the band? Well it’s early days, we’ve only done a few rehearsals and so far I’m having those guys stick close to the script. But I can already see huge potential in what they can contribute as things move forward. As we get more familiar with one another things will get more elastic, more open. They will bring their own style and character, and being the experienced players that they are, this should yield some interesting results.

Tell me about the cover of the Electrelane song, “The Valleys on the album….it’s the only one that features guest vocals too….

I never knew their stuff very well but I was interested by what I had heard. Then one day my housemate at the time was playing The Power Out album and I overheard The Valleys playing from the other room. It’s quite unlike other Electrelane stuff so I didn’t guess it was them. It grabbed me immediately, though. Everything about it but especially the incredible vocal harmonies (sung by an eight-piece choir). I’ve been interested in vocal harmony for a while and before too long I started thinking about doing a version myself. This was about five years ago and to be honest I didn’t have the skills to do it. Eventually I did gain the necessary skills and gave it a shot. It wasn’t feasible to record a choir so I set about it with the help of two singers I know, Milly Blue and Tanya Auclair. With the three of us singing and judicious use of multi-track recording I managed to get a result I’m pretty happy with. I really did it just for fun and to learn new stuff, I didn’t intend it to be on the album but I was persuaded to feature it. It’s a little different from the other tracks but it just about hangs in there, style-wise. I’m glad it’ll be out in the world, anyway.

Machine seems to sum up alot of the ‘Hipster’ music movement at the moment ‘it’s about meeting a certain kind of people that seem to be so concerned with their vision of being cool, they lose themselves and you can’t even tell who they are anymore.’ I see alot of those people where I live….is that something you actively don’t want to be part of?

I don’t want to be part of anything! ‘Serial Non-Joiner’ and proud! Although it can be a lonely place to be sometimes….

But seriously. I’m trying not to use the word ‘hipster’ at this stage in the game as I think it’s begin to lose any accurately descriptive power and is becoming simply a dull-edged pejorative term. There are, however, people I’ve met who have given me the impression that you’ve quoted above. I don’t give a shit if people dress the same, we’re all part of that to a greater or lesser extent. But it’s the apparent loss of someone’s personal character that I find genuinely disturbing. Social groupings have always been a part of human society but the relatively recent (and intensifying) phenomenon of corporate and commercial influence on style and identity does make me wonder; what effect is this going to have on the way we relate to each other as human beings?

What do you hope people take from this album as a whole?

I hope they want to experience it as a whole. I hope they notice new things in it that they hadn’t noticed on previous listens. I hope they keep going back to it. I hope they like it enough to buy it so that I can carry on making music! That’s not too much to ask, is it?

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.