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Quintin Nadig - Anchor Details

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Artist: Quintin Nadig

Album: Anchor Details

Label: D.I.Y

Review date: Jul. 28, 2003

Didn't it Rain?

Quintin Nadig is a songwriter from Charleston, South Carolina who grew up in rural Illinois and spent a brief time in Alaska. It makes sense that his debut solo effort, a humble and pretty little offering, reflects an aura of rainy, dreary coastlines with a smudge of dusty midwestern ennui. Cryptically recorded "shortly after the fire on Rutledge," Anchor Details sounds in many ways like yet another quiet, post-trauma record from a confessional singer-songwriter. But it’s significant that in Nadig’s case the trauma in question isn’t your typical lost love or childhood nostalgia (though those themes are certainly explored), but instead a fire. As a result, Anchor Details – with its woodcut cover image of infinite, rolling waves, and its song titles about lifeboats, harbors, and Alaskan coastal villages – makes uses of water sounds and images to cope with its lingering heartache. Whether water is an extinguishing force or one that ultimately drowns is the question that Nadig, in his whispered voice and irregularly plucked guitar notes, sets out to explore.

In case you think I’m exaggerating, Anchor Details opens with the sound of steadily drizzling rain. The opener, "Stiletto Heels and a Bulletproof Vest," is one of the most minimal tracks on the record – instrumentally just Nadig’s haphazard guitar plucking and some gentle piano backing – so the rain functions as a fine, moody mattress. At times Nadig’s voice has a loosely coiled Conor Oberst quality, but thankfully he never attempts the wimp idol’s strained, upper-register pounces. Instead, Nadig is best when he communicates both the dramatic and the exhausted – vaguely in the "I’d go out tonight / But I haven’t got a stitch to wear" Morrissey mode, only Morrissey on the verge of a long nap.

Ultimately, Nadig shines brightly with just a little bit of backing. On "Apologists," Ward Williams’ cello cuts through the foggy atmosphere much like O’Neil’s Long Day’s Journey foghorn, both in emotional effect and timbre, adding a layered depth of urgency. The effect is both understated and quite rich, like in "Nocturne: Breathe" where the plucked, tinny banjo accompaniment seems to replicate raindrops plopping down on a metal roof. It’s that rain that’s everywhere, in the threatening storm clouds spun by Williams’ cello, in park fountains and vivid lightning storms. Though the instrumentation of Anchor Details never really erupts in torrential downpour – I’m thinking the long, lovely accumulation of Bedhead’s "Powder" or Kozelek’s take-em-or-leave-em Neil Young guitar solos – Nadig demonstrates some nice lateral movement. "Ketchikan," for example, is less melancholy than eerily ominous – a foggy, whispered sketch about the shadowy underside of the seasonal Alaskan grind ("a cannie took a knife out on a local / the green kid off the Anne Marie"). "Lifeboat #3 (Reprise)" is a droning instrumental of accordion tones and piano, its slightly sour notes complicating a patient chord progression.

In all, Anchor Details sustains its shroud of foggy melancholy quite nicely. Without allowing himself to become swamped in bathos, Nadig couches his emotion in the dreary but honest atmospheres of gray beaches and floating boat docks, which he whittles out of the rough materials of his hushed voice and some understated instrumental support. Though in some ways a fairly familiar-sounding record, Anchor Details is nevertheless affecting. Nadig certainly seems poised for some wider exposure.

By Nathan Hogan

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