Diagetic sounds in songs tend to irk me. There are those tracks that attempt to superimpose party noises in order to give their supposed ‘party-starters’ a bit more of a legitimate vibe. Every once in a while there’ll be a hip-hop joint that actually benefits from the inclusion of studio banter in the intro or outro but more often, these reflections on the process could have stayed on the cutting room floor. And then there are the tracks that utilise seemingly incongruous conversational bits to account for the down-time between awesome choruses. As against all of these, Weezer’s ‘Sweater Song‘ sticks out as a total triumph of utilising recorded dialogue to add depth to a song. But Weezer is Weezer. Chances are, your band is not that band, formed in 1992 and at the forefront of alternative rock since, and you can’t get away with zanily sampling random snippets of conversation that, in a postmodern head-trip, appear to reference an after-party of one of Weezer’s own gigs. Instead, your lame shot at adding atmosphere to your song is likely to fall flat. That is unless, of course, you’re Xavier Rudd.
Ever since I saw Xavier perform as support for Jack Johnson years ago and ransacked Limewire’s stores to sate the thirst I never knew I had for didgeridoo jams (in the days before I had the means to buy records – don’t download kids, you’ll get hit with a $72 trillion fine), he’s been a bit different. While in the company of Johnson – who regularly strides on stage in shorts and a tee, sans shoes – multi-instrumentalist Rudd’s live shows weren’t that out there, in any other context but the earthy love-fests that Jack’s shows so regularly become, Xavier might be a bit of anachronism. In an era in which production expectations are ratcheted ever higher and aesthetics can make or break an artist, Xavier’s nonchalance has become a compelling trademark. In an impressively unpretentious manner, he knows who he is and sticks to his convictions like so many don’t. Admittedly, that faithfulness to self and loyalty to sound might be hallmarks of his folk-roots genre, but ‘Follow The Sun’ has confirmed that over and above that, they’re notions at the core of Xavier’s being.
As bird calls punctuate waves of gently pulsing guitar chords, you get the sense that this is not Xavier Rudd having you on. So often, artists revert to extra, non-studio sounds to make up for a deficit of recorded sentiment, as if to really invoke, ‘this is the sort of vibe I’m going for here’. On ‘Follow The Sun’ there is none of that forced imagination. As soon as the warm thump of the bass drum hits and the lazy harmonica sings its introduction, the bird sounds don’t seem so much a conscious addition as they do a necessary extension of the track’s tone, thoroughly enmeshed in the fabric of nature out of which this song was born. Xavier’s vocals, at once timid and confident, underplayed and captivating, seem as much a part of this sonic landscape as the harmonica and guitar riffs they so casually bleed into. With the modern proliferation of ‘live’ recordings, the wonderful thing about Xavier’s work is that it blurs the line between studio and live performance so effortlessly. ‘Follow The Sun’ is beautiful in a way that not much else is these days. Naturally.
Xavier Rudd – Follow The Sun