Nina Nastasia - Macbeth, London 02/04/12
Words: Yolanda Leask
Photos: Tim Ferguson
The evening's entertainment at the peeling Macbeth in Hoxton commenced with Pseudo Nippon, an outfit composed of atypically be-kaftaned, hirsute, middle-eastern twin drummers and a seemingly possessed MC. Their occult noises border on the unpleasant, yet frequent surprising contrasts of style and tempo keep the listener bewitched. Insistent drumming dominates the act, and the synchronicity of the percussion is impressive. Tighter than a Hoxton hipster's jeans. Each song is uproariously surprising, as just when you think you've got them pegged, they diversify. The set spans a myriad of genres, but one conjured up the imagined sound of a punky, dub step Hot Chip. There are also hints of the Prodigy in terms of rhythm, yet the melody at points becomes Mario Kart saccharine sweet.
The support couldn't differ more from the meditatively hypnotic guitar of Nina Nastasia. Her folky, Americana-tinged acoustic music demonstrates a distinctively broader awareness than that of peers associated with this style. Whereas punters resorted to makeshift tissue earplugs for the first act, Nina's understated performance forced listeners to crane their necks, ever desperate to hear more. All the sounds of the public house become more prominent in the quiet atmosphere: the audience for the barman's ice-shovelling has never been greater.
There is an unpredictable, dynamic intonation in her vocals which gives a beautiful interplay of chiaro/scuro, allowing fans to catch their breath and lose it again in the same moment. I try to catch the lyrics, somehow feeling the significance of the words without the need to mentally transcribe them. Despite being a solo act, Nina manages to create a very multi-dimensional sound; each element carefully balanced, almost to tipping point then back to equilibrium again. There is something precarious about Nastasia's approach: one fears she may at any moment lose momentum, but yet again she keeps the audience captivated throughout the pauses as much as during the music itself. Her entire performance evokes ease. The segue from silence to full flow sounds effortless and barely noticeable, but carries you weightlessly like a wave through the rise and fall of dynamics.
Although renowned as a singer and guitarist, Nina's performance verges on stand-up comedy with her frequent deadpan interludes and enthusiastic heckling from the crowd. The interjected humour creates a pleasant respite from songs which could become overly sentimental upon continuous listening. Nearing the end of the concert we hear that a male crowd member "was so overwhelmed with emotion that he fell into a door," such is the penetrating effect of Nastasia's music. What was a rowdy pub is somehow transformed into focused, contemplative and admiring worship. 'Stormy Weather' provides melancholic, tremolo notes which perfectly summarise uncertainty. The chorus straddles the border between haunting and catchy, managing to be simultaneously unsettling and soothing. One thing is for sure, Nastasia's music makes an impression.