Nadia Reid – Preservation

Secret Meeting score: 82

by Mark Jackson

When Nadia Reid released her debut album, Listen to Formation, Look for The Signs in 2014, she was greeted with enthusiastic endorsements in sections of the music press and given the title, ‘one to watch’. The New Zealander has proven to exceed expectation with her sophomore LP, Preservation, which shows off her enchanting and often haunting vocal prowess. Musically bright and rich, the album’s sound is juxtaposed with the loneliness, heartbreak and melancholy presented in the lyrical content. Together, the mix is one that is a compelling and captivating listen.

Born in 1991, Reid writes that Preservation’s songs are a “confession to my future and past self”. Penned while touring her debut album and therefore also changing the outline of the world as she knew it, Preservation charts a deep personal and musical growth. It is the sound of a woman undergoing an increased enlightenment by the process of deep self-reflection and of an artist becoming progressively more confident with her own personal and musical identity.

Sonically, Reid, together with producer Ben Edwards and long-term guitarist Sam Taylor, have worked to fuse the traditional acoustic sounds of the Laurel Canyon with the distinctive electric guitar tone of Hejira period Joni Mitchell and the pop insight of Stevie Nicks led Fleetwood Mac. This is perfectly demonstrated in full band tracks Preservation, Richard, I Come Home to You, Right on Time, and The Way it Goes. Here, each shimmery, chorus laden guitar and synth ambience marries sublimely with the simple drum and bass anchor, lifting the overall sound beyond that of traditional folk.

Immediate standout track, Richard, is a witty yet dark reflection on the vanity of an ex-partner – ‘Richard liked the sound of his own voice, by the kitchen in the mirror’ – and the looming disappointment of this ill-fated relationship – ‘Pushing at the arrow of time, taking back the hand that is mine/And my record is playing in your heart, the flowers we planted have blown apart’. The song opens with fingerpicked electric guitars that intriguingly fall over one another. Accompanying instruments blend together and gel the guitars into a cohesive and enthralling hook, yet the track maintains a mid-tempo apathy that sustains the listener’s focus well and truly on the quality of Reid’s vocals. The track’s final 50 seconds shift beat and attention to a chaotic and desperate gritty bass loop that surely represents the end of Reid’s unfortunate affiliation with Richard.

Anyone who has experienced the ending of a seemingly impenetrable relationship or friendship will identify with the heartbreak and realism of penultimate track, The Way it Goes. ‘I am looking out my window, I am looking for my friend, it’s been weeks since I have seen you, Oh, I never dreamed it would end’ Reid sings before coming to the unnerving conclusion that ‘it’s the way it goes, it’s sad, it’s slow.’ 

In truth, it is the tracks not mentioned so far that prove the true heart of Preservation. Reid excels when the production gimmickry (no matter how tastefully curated) is reduced and all diversions from her voice and storytelling are condensed to nothing more than ambient textures. Reid’s ability to paint cinematic spaces that lull you to the destination is crucial. In the beautiful Hanson St. Pt2, we are ‘alone’, ‘hunting’ and ‘happy’ with Reid by the river as the music gently hums, until the reality of her thoughts out- ‘Oh, how it burns, how it looks in the light, all of my undoing, will become a lonely life.’  Similar anguish can be felt in the atmospheric, Te Aro, and the final haunting performance of Ain’t Got You.

Reid is on record stating that, “Preservation is about the point I started to love myself again… when music was realised as my longest standing comfort.” This is excellent news, as with some clear comforting left to do we look forward to the next instalment of this talented 26-year-old’s songbook.

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