Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Pink Moon - Nick Drake - album review

Nick Drake's final studio album, Pink Moon, released in 1972, has a character all of its own. The terse or brief song titles, and the fact that this was the singer-songwriter's last record, have led people to jump to certain conclusions.

The songs have sparse and stripped down arrangements, consisting mostly of the voice accompanied by acoustic guitar. There is none of the decorative instrumentation or trimmings present on Nick's two previous records, Five Leaves Left and Bryter Layter.

It is true that some of the content of Pink Moon is bleak, but it is not unremittingly so, and the general perception of the LP's mood is no doubt compounded by the hypnotic and metronomic nature of a few of the tracks - "Place To Be" springs to mind in this regard. In a few cases the tempo and rhythms suit the atmosphere, but elsewhere things are less straightforward.

Some of the numbers, such as "Road", have a more pronounced "folk" feel to them, and the sparer sound allows Nick's acoustic guitar technique to show through.  I suspect that the word "ascetic" is used with some regularity when Pink Moon is discussed.The melodies are understated and uncomplicated, and the vocal delivery sometimes indistinct, as if the offerings are not really meant for public consumption.

For me the outstanding track is "Things Behind The Sun", which carries the odd echo of Five Leaves Left, in its greater complexity. It is also longer than the other compositions here. "Parasite" is quite unusual for the Drake catalogue, in the relative "crudeness" of its imagery.

Melancholy is the word so regularly, and often blithely, associated with Nick Drake's work. In the confines of Pink Moon, "melancholy", when understood in a broader sense, assumes its own identity, as if it is a realm in itself, existing in parallel with the real world. Without adopting a stereotyped view of Drake-songs, one can see a poetic beauty about this "other" world. People who have been there will doubtless identify with some of the sentiments expressed, even if they are done so cryptically.  This, together with the musical approach, helps to give the album an acute, occasionally unsettling, intimacy.

Pink Moon lacks the conventional "entertainment" value of Nick's other work. It is much more direct, but no less affecting.

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