Dan the Automator knows. Back after no perceptible break, super-producer Dan Nakamura shows off his undeniable talent under the pseudonym Nathaniel Merriweather; purveyor of beats, licks, and fine grooving.
You may have caught a glimpse of his talent over the years, in the musical guide to the medicine on Dr. Octagon, the commercially beautiful Handsome Boy Modeling School, or more recently in the operatic Deltron 3030 (setting aside Gorillaz). What all of these eclectic musical journeys have in common is the talented team of artists who reinforce them all.
In the Automator’s latest opus, dubbed Nathaniel Merriweather’s Lovage: Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By, Nathaniel Merriweather is joined by the likes of Jennifer Charles (Elysian Fields), Mike Patton (Faith No More), Damon Albarn (Blur), Maseo (De La Soul), Afrikaa Bambataa, Kid Koala (Bullfrog) on turntables, and fellow super-producer Prince Paul a.k.a Chest Rockwell.
Nakamura’s strength lies in creating instrumentals that convey each album’s theme explicitly. Space Opera for Deltron, brit-pop meets hip-hop for Gorillaz, and pure sensual exuberance for Lovage. If you have been watching MTV, you are all used to the soporific sludge that is popular music today. With love being taught to us by plastic teens, and gelled ex-convicts posing as high-school seniors, it’s hard to tell what’s what.
And I must say, it’s really not an easy task to make you feel the love when you’re only swayed by the mechanical “boom-boom-ing” of most electronic music. But again, the Automator succeeds in defining sensual groove with the use of acoustic and electronic ingredients. Flute, guitar, keyboards, live kits- all mix happily with the freely yet calculated beats and scratches of Chest Rockwell and Merriweather. No piece is linear or sleep-inducing, and yet, the ensemble is uniform enough to make it thematic without seeming repetitive.
The lyrics of the album may seem a sort of erotic-kitsch to some, but the key is to keep in mind is that this is, after all, a Nakamura production. A sense of humor is just as important as shamelessness. The lyrics read like a harlequin, aback to a lush and intricate orchestration of trip-hop meets hip-hop meets acid jazz. And yet, unlike many side projects, the emphasis is on the project. The experimentation is in its free form; its lack of limits and abandon to the ridiculous will make you smile. Some tracks rest unpolished, scratchy like an old vinyl, and flawed like the best of us.
To those of you who aren’t swayed by the unusual voices of Michael Patton or Jennifer Charles, you can always hope for the instrumental version, but start counting your losses. The organic composition of Lovage is sweet and nutritious much like the lettuce it is supposedly named after (Levisiticum officinale). To the fans of U.N.K.LE, Bran Van 3000, Gorillaz, Mr.Scruff and the likes, this is just the next episode. As for the rest of you, discover, degust the delectable dish, and give in to Nathaniel Merriweather’s advice.