Natural Calamity

Peach Head

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

If the musical environment of Peach Head is lazy, the music itself is not. Instead, Natural Calamity creates textured songs that build on themselves, creating lovely, fragile drones, sometimes with a distinctly folksy psychedelic or space rock flavor, sometimes entirely pop, but always stretched and elongated. But the music never even begins to drag. Each song is like an unraveling, and it is not uncommon for a song to sound as if it is just kicking into gear at the three-minute mark. Their songwriting is accomplished, assured, and varied, while the duo stretch their instruments to the limit, seemingly playing them as if they are completely different instruments, and they frequently sound as if they are melting right in their players' hands. "Dark Water & Stars" has a Caribbean feel with Shunji Mori's reverbed tremolo guitars sounding something like steel drums being played under water, creating a queasy but mellow feel, at least until the electronic, space age alien sounds appropriate the song. Never has pedal steel guitar sounded as futuristic as it does on "Tomorrow," a beautiful, sleepy song. "So Good" combines the best of the pop and psychedelic folk sides of Natural Calamity. The vocal melody can only be called pop, but stretched over slowly finger-picked guitar and completely relaxed drumming, the song becomes expansive and open. The Dust Brothers remix of "As You Know" is an example of Natural Calamity as a progressive pop band, as the song incorporates unusually crisp and steady drumming and little snatches of scratching. An upbeat bassline by Kuni Sugimoto guides the melody, and Mori's guitars are not to be found throughout. This in contrast to the original version of the song, which takes the exact same melody but softens all the elements, adding Mori's liquid-toned playing, bouncy organ, and water effects with squealing electronic doodles. Stephanie Heasley's vocals barely peek through the futuristic haze. She deserves special mention here. Her voice is supple and malleable, and her melodies swim along with the flow of the music rather than cutting through and disrupting it. When she needs to be quiet, she is, but Heasley also helps keep the music from collapsing in on itself when it slows to a walk, and makes the somewhat more upbeat songs, such as "And That's Saying a Lot," sound sexy and just slightly risqué. When Heasley sings "I'm a woman of very few words/And that's saying a lot," she is so suggestive that it is almost too much to bear. But that phrase could just as easily describe Natural Calamity as a band. They prefer to let their music do most of the talking for them. Peach Head is perfect chill-out mood music.

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