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Artist: Nordic Nomadic

Album: Nordic Nomadic

Label: Blue Fog

Review date: Feb. 7, 2008


Nordic Nomadic - "Living Arrangements" (Nordic Nomadic)


Is it ever enough to say a record is merely good? Without getting into a laundry list of influences and suppositions? Is muted aloofness the best critics can muster when they run out of adjectives and comparisons?

Nordic Nomadic’s self-titled debut raised these questions as it had its laid-back way with my headspace. The solo effort of ex-Deadly Snake Chad Ross, Nordic Nomadic trades the bent garage-pop of his previous act for heady and hushed (North) Americana. The Toronto-based songwriter makes great use of mood and groove over the course of the record, with the occasional bromidic bout. But it’s all “good,” in the broadest sense of the word.

Particularly the opening track. “The World’s Slowest Man” slithers through spacey verses and a captivating instrumental section beset with unearthly electric guitar and tumbling percussion. “My mind won't let me stay /
My legs wont let me get away /
But I’ll be there when I can / Cause I am the world's slowest man,” Ross languidly sings over the hypnotic music.

Subsequent tracks, while not as immediately fetching, do showcase a songwriter of considerable refinement. Ross’ fingerpicking is crisp and clean, and his vocals are autumnal but never cold. “Ruby Rose” has some of the gloomy mystery of the first cut, with righteous dynamics and flashes of trippy organ.

“Grey,” on the other hand, feels like any number of downer Americana cuts I’ve heard. You know the score – faux-Appalachian opprobrium and acoustic ignominy. It’s hard to take Ross seriously when he sings lines like “get off my land” – last time I checked, Toronto couldn’t exactly be called hardscrabble.

But I do give him points for trying. And for succeeding, as he does on “Living Arrangements.” This track, with its amorphous intro and dusky tonality, hints at a broader psych-folk palette I’m hoping Ross more fully exploits on future releases.

Understated can easily border on undercooked, a fate Nordic Nomadic largely avoids. Still, I’m looking forward to the day when “good” isn’t enough to describe Chad Ross’ music. I’m guessing that day is just around the corner.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

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