Between Cornwall’s crashing waves, cliffs, and landscapes, singer-songwriter Nathan Ball is based. After years of releasing singles and a few EP’s, having done quite some international tours and collaborations with artists like dance legends Faithless on their latest album, he is certainly no newcomer to the music industry. This Friday, August 20th, his long-awaited debut album Under The Mackerel Sky has been released.
On the album, produced by Max Radford and mixed by Nicholas Verhnes (The War On Drugs, Daughter, Deerhunter), Nathan Ball combines his love for house and electronic music with classic songwriting creating his own unique sound. A sound in which he is not afraid to have to overrule himself to convince the listener, but, because of that, to draw you in and thereby keep your attention. Mixing melancholy and euphoria throughout the songs, the album is a true rollercoaster of emotions. To catch all the details and get a full experience I would highly recommend listening to the album on headphones and let yourself drift away.
Opening track “Whispers” sets the scene for the record. With nature, and in particular, the sea as a source of inspiration, it is fitting that the song features a sample of the shipping forecast. The following track is “Blindside”, the first single that was released a few months ago. Starting quietly on the piano the chorus evolves into a mighty and compelling sound. Written about two people who lost sight of each other, a relationship falling apart, but craving to feel connected again. Also included on the album is a new version of “Drifting”, previously released back in 2017. Adding some more synths and percussion it’s gotten a fuller sound without losing its original form.
One of my personal favorites of the album is “Can’t Work You Out”. With the lack of usual structure of a song with a verse and chorus, instead it has an amazing build-up to an explosive intensity high point. It was written during the first lockdown, with the increasing sense of uncertainty and confusion in the air. The lyrics explore an internal conversation and growing frustration that eventually spirals out of control, the music beautifully reflecting that feeling.
The last track of the album is the title track “Under The Mackerel Sky”, which was inspired by a poem by John Betjeman. In an interview with Bedroomdisco.de, Nathan explains:
“I was reading a poem by the late great Sir John Betjeman who wrote a lot about his love for this area of Cornwall I live in and I saw a line where he described a mackerel sky. I’d forever seen these kinds of patchworks across the sky down here but never really knew what they were. I read deeper into it and it turns out a mackerel sky to sea folks means a change is coming, usually in terms of the weather like a storm is on its way, but I liked the idea that a change was coming in the mad world we suddenly found ourselves in. I wrote the song immediately that day and took it down to where John Betjeman is buried at the church down the road. I listened to the track about 20 times on repeat and it suddenly gave context to all of these songs I had written. It felt like such a time and every time I see a mackerel sky overhead it makes me think of this amazing moment and great times we had making this record.”
3. Cold Rushes
5. Can’t Work You Out
7. Tape Over It
8. Falling short
10. Hotel Room
11. My Answer
12. Under The Mackerel Sky