Every music has a movement, and that’s not to mean the Twist or the Mashed Potato. Whether it’s Impressionism or realism, Dadaism or structuralism, every swatch of music can find its visual and philosophical equivalent. But in some cases it’s a toss-up, an example of which is Nudity, a band of psych-rock wayfarers out of the indie-rock mecca of Olympia, Wash., that wind a path between rarified and organic forms.
“Art Nouveau vs. Deco—I’ll generally take Nouveau, because of the wild, random ornamentation imitating the wild randomness of nature,” writes guitarist/vocalist Dave Harvey during an e-mail interview while on the initial dates of the group’s month-long national tour. “But the balancing order found more commonly in Deco can be equally appealing in a world as unpredictably skewed as ours.”
Indeed, an Art Nouveau-like figure and logo (each personally silkscreened by Harvey) emblazon Nudity’s recent release, The Nightfeeders, a two-track, 40-plus-minute limited-edition vinyl EP released through the Portland, Ore., label Discourage Records. And to complement the images, waves of extreme beauty and decay tussle organically throughout the disc, both on the original composition and the equally long version “additionally recorded, performed, and remixed” by San Francisco’s Tim Green (Concentrick, the Fucking Champs). But helping cinch in the sonics when they threaten the seams is a pliant but poised motorik rhythmic underpinning. The sound is still voluminous even when not at top volume, and the grandeur is in miniature. Grooves and drones digress, digging into a resolute Krautrock pocket.
“I think if we were a more druggy-ass band, we’d go more with the spontaneity tip,” writes Harvey, who is also a T-shirt designer, booking agent, film projectionist, and future fire lookout in the Cascades. “But as it is, we’re not, so we have thought-out platforms from which to launch spontaneous and improvised explorations. That’s when the hive mind takes over, you know?”
Formed in 2004, the Nudity brain trust—Harvey, guitarist Grant Miller, bassist John “Quitty” Quittner, and drummer Eryn Ross, all part of the Kill Rock Stars/K Records scene in Olympia—is so named because it’s “sleek, streamlined, clean, and it feels so good,” jokes Harvey. “We’ve all played in plenty of blastingly loud and fast bands before, so [we] are digging exploring the other side with Nudity.”
Harvey and Quittner have a good decade and a half of musical partnership under their belts, most recently in Tight Bros From Way Back When, while Ross hails from the found-sound and feedback weavers Growing. Hooking up with Miller, Harvey and Quittner traded the chunky raunch riffs of the mid-’70s (think AC/DC via the MC5) for the woozy expansions of the early ‘70s (Hawkwind, Amon Duul II). But just because this is a group that can appreciate some of the cosmic leanings of German space rockers Cluster doesn’t mean that Nudity has abandoned the adrenalized, however.
“The natch’l born punks inside us still can’t get away from the pure rush of fucking shit up in two minutes of mayhem,” writes Harvey. “We have a few of those songs too, hopefully still with the flavor of the more spacious songs contained within.”
Nudity tracks definitely opt for blister over bluster, but not at the expense of dynamics; flute, organ and sitar, among other embellishments, also wind through the guitar-borne contortions. The end result is a most active calm—sonic epiphanies by an ensemble whose totems, according to Harvey, include a “disembodied mustache reading a giant philosophy novel” (Miller), “a golden size 15 shoe that never wears out” (Quittner), a “killer [c]harger blazing into the sunset” (Miller), and an “old man with a bamboo flute that doubles as a cane” (himself).
Nudity’s artistic counterpart would likely be found in film—part Cinéma-vérité on indigenous street performers, part Surrealist narrative on creative obsession. Working with Technicolor hues and anamorphic filters, aiming for arcs that are universal without being uniform, Nudity feels fully fleshed out.