Bubblin' Up: Evenings
- Words: Michael Harkin
It's a moment of transition for Nathan Broaddus. Only a few years out of college, the man behind Evenings currently resides in his home state of Virginia, having recently lived in New York for a spell. Right now, he's contemplating another change of scenery. "I'm hanging out here, thinking about moving somewhere," he says. "That's all up in the air at the moment." It's unclear what the next chapter will hold, but with the release of Yore—an album-length compilation of previously (mostly) digital-only Evenings tracks—he's closing the first chapter of an accidental career that's just beginning to bloom. Combining a longing, nostalgic air with a keen, playful sense of structure and hooks, Evenings carves out a niche that's inviting to both pop-oriented and more fringe tastes.
Yore is Broaddus' first legitimate, physically released album, but he's been recording songs for years. In the late 2000s, he started throwing tracks up on MySpace with little notion that anyone would ever hear them. Near the end of his second year at the University of Virginia, he went on a short road trip with his brother and a few friends to the Bonnaroo festival in nearby Tennessee. When he came back, he found an email from No Pain in Pop asking to share "Friend [Lover]," a song he had posted online just before he split town. The label's post, as well as another by Double Denim Records, increased his visibility, and by 2010 he had put together his first cohesive release, the North Dorm EP. The five contemplative, restless, pop-smart tracks therein could sit comfortably alongside contemporary producers like Toro y Moi and Washed Out, or among more established, similarly wistful artists like Boards of Canada or Four Tet.
"I'm still really fond of the music on there," he says of North Dorm, most of which shows up on Yore. "Sometimes it will come on and I won't completely dislike it." LA-based producer Shlohmo got ahold of the EP and connected with Broaddus, paving the way for Evenings' eventual hook-up with the Friends of Friends imprint, which is releasing the new compilation. "[Shlohmo] was really cool about hyping my music, and he got me in touch with Leeor [Brown, from Friends of Friends]," explains Broaddus. "From there, I moved to New York and started playing a few shows up there."
In 2011, he self-released a full-length Evenings album called Lately, which was issued digitally and as a limited-edition cassette. Much that record was recorded while Broaddus was living abroad for a short time in France, and the title track, a pensive, piano-flecked ambient cut, is one of the strongest offerings on Yore, even though it has a more knowingly ambient feel when compared to the rest of the compilation. The song is somewhere between very familiar and strangely new—like a rare feeling or emotion that you know you've felt before, but have trouble placing.
"Music is a really good way, if you can, to get out those weird emotions that you don't know what else to do with," Broaddus says. "I didn't ever expect myself to start making electronic music as a serious thing, it just kinda happened because I was working by myself." A large part of why his music sounds the way it does, says Broaddus, is the fact that he does everything himself. "When you're trying to make music by yourself, the electronic influence just creeps in on its own," he explains. "I guess you could play your own drums and just play every single instrument, but it's easier if you're working on your own to just put it together with drum machines and Ableton, if you can."
With the exception of a very limited 7" single of "Lo-Vélo" and "Babe" that was issued by Turntable Kitchen back in 2011, Yore is the first time most of the tracks from North Dorm and Lately have been given a proper release. Broaddus considers it more of a collection than an actual album per se, but given what's been done to it—on top of remastering, the songs have been resequenced, some extra instrumentation has been added, and a new song has been thrown in the mix as well—it can easily be listened to and thought about as a single album.
The end product is homespun but hi-fi, a good aesthetic fit with his Friends of Friends brethren. Broaddus maximizes the capabilities of the various pieces of equipment he has around—guitars, reel-to-reels, synths, drum machines, his computer—making very high-fidelity-sounding music with only a hint of crackle. At the same time, there's a rawness there that plays into its charm, its openness to connection, and its comforting quality.
Sampled field recordings of flowing water provide a potent, affecting rhythmic texture alongside a mallet-struck drum on "Goodbye Forever," one of the album's highlights. "The samples that you do hear are samples that I recorded myself," explains Broaddus, who employs a couple of analog synthesizers, including a Yamaha SK-15. "It's not a very popular synthesizer, but I like it a lot for the organ sounds," he says. Sometimes he'll take MIDI patches and run them through reel-to-reel tape machines to warm them up to get the sounds he wants out of them. "The frequencies you can pull out of those waveforms after you've run them through analog equipment sound so much better," he says.
His music, fragmented yet unfailingly bright, at times conveys the mixed feelings of loss and subsequent disorientation, and expresses the difficulties of having to rebuild and reconfigure with what's still around. "Ager [Mind Reel]" is structured in this very way, anxiously colliding Tangerine Dream-like synths before breaking down halfway through for a computer-voice-spoken interlude, then picking itself back up again in a rearranged, more humbled mode.
"Babe" is Evenings' most obvious hit—a quietly pulsating, midtempo jam with a deep synth hook that deftly melds with an infectious rhythm track. Another standout is "Softly We Go," whose plucked guitar leads are melodic yet freeform, providing a shifting foundation for the soft, eminent synth that guides the song's hesitant melody into an orderly, serene headspace.
On top of the new release, there's a strong group of tracks, hosted on Bandcamp as Unreleased Collection, which, with the exception of "Chesapeake," didn't end up on an official release. According to Broaddus, an album of new Evenings material is coming sometime in the near future, but the details are under wraps for the time being. The shape his new music will take, as well as Broaddus' new locale of residence, is as yet unknown, but it seems likely that the rather simple modus operandi he spells out will hold true: "The songs are for listening—that's the reason I created them… to listen and enjoy, hang out, [and] have something peaceful to listen to."
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