Birds & Batteries

Selections from Nature vs. Nature

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While living in Boston, multi-instrumentalist Michael Sempert wrote and home recorded a demo album called "Nature vs. Nature." After moving to San Francisco, he put together a full-time band with keyboardist Julie Ann Thomasson, bassist Jill Heinke, and drummer Brian Michelson supporting his own guitar and vocals. Rather than record a proper debut album, the quartet took the dozen best songs from Sempert's home demo and replaced most of his instrumental parts with their own, resulting in the intriguing but not entirely successful hybrid Selections from Nature vs. Nature. Sempert's move to northern California seems to be due in part to a fascination with the California rock ethos of the 1970s, most especially the work of Neil Young. There's a fairly faithful cover of Young's "Albuquerque" here, complete with pedal steel and requisite druggy haze, though the hesitant, stripped-down arrangement makes it sound like Young backed by Galaxie 500 instead of Crazy Horse. Similar flaws permeate the album as a whole: because these aren't true band performances but a slightly awkward marriage between a lo-fi one-man demo and newer, better-quality performances, there's a bit of a disconnect between the songs and their presentation. The band never quite sounds like a band, which limits the extent to which Birds & Batteries can aspire to the effortless interplay of their mellow influences. The group's second album, I'll Never Sleep Again, fixes that problem and in some ways can be considered their true debut; Selections from Nature vs. Nature is more of a clearing of the decks in preparation.

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