Hat [EP]

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You won't find many more minimalist titles than those listed on the sleeve of the Nits' 1988 mini-album, Hat. These include "Blue," "The Train," "The Dream," "The House," and, inevitably, "The Hat." A total of six tracks, with five definite articles and two adjectives between them. Lyrics are similarly minimalist and often take the form of fragments of recollected dreams and memories in which everyday scenes and objects trigger feelings of loss and melancholy. It's perhaps surprising, then, that for such an austerely conceived project, the Nits again came up with some of their most enduring work. Opener "The Train," whose rolling rhythm matches that of its subject matter, boasts a breezy, instantly memorable melody framed by Robert Jan Stips' exultant piccolo-synth and, at one point, samples of wheels on tracks and screeching brakes. Hat's other undoubted masterpiece is "The Bauhaus Chair," a poignant melody, beautifully sung by Henk Hofstede (though his inability to master the English "th" sound is particularly intrusive here) and rounded off by a richly resonant organ passage that evokes Procol Harum in their pomp. Elsewhere, "The Dream" has a vibrant South American feel that recalls "Nescio," while "The House" is an altogether bleaker affair, with its measured, incantatory refrain of "Time slipping away." Only "Blue" and "The Hat" are a little too sketchy to make much impact. Songs apart, what is most striking about Hat, however, is Stips' keyboard playing. In just two years he had gone from the often grotesque and alienating synth effects that blighted much of Henk to the lushly organic settings contained here. Rob Kloet had also by now arrived at a distinctively understated and highly musical technique that saw him tailor his percussion parts to the precise requirements of each individual song, rather than reaching for a ready-made beat like most rock drummers.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
blue highlight denotes track pick