Nash the Slash is a Canadian musician whose music transcends genres, blending elements of pop, classical, rock and contemporary electronics, then heavily tingeing the result with an ominous film noir darkness. Creepy, yet highly uptempo, Nash's tuneage is achieved with a unique and uncommon selection of instruments: the electric mandolin and electric violin.
Vocals can be found on his later recordings too. In fact, Nash was nominated for the prestigious Juno Award in the Eighties, Canada's version of the Grammy Awards.
Another aspect that sets Nash apart from most musicians is the fact that no one knows his real identity or what he looks like. While performing live (something he frequently does in and around the Toronto region), he is wrapped in white gauze and attired in a variety of curious costumes (the most recurrent one being a white tuxedo with high top hat).
His recordings from the Eighties are eagerly sought after by audiophiles, not just as collectibles but for their awesome sonic content. Those who have quested after these vinyl rarities will be ecstatic to discover that some of these releases are now available on CD.
NASH THE SLASH: Blind Windows (CD on Cut-Throat Productions)
This CD features Nash's debut EP and album ("Bedside Companion" and "Dreams and Nightmares"). Also included on this 74 minute CD are "The Marsden Versions" of the EP tracks. Originally recorded and released on vinyl in the late Seventies, this remastered CD came out in 1997.
There are numerous aspects that make Nash's music so special. His choice of electric mandolin and electric violin sets him in an odd class far outside traditional rock'n'roll. From this niche, Nash blazes with a blend of classical and modern electronic music. Shrill mandolin and squealing violin savagery belt out energetic instrumental tuneage flavored with E-perc, keyboards, devices, and effects.
And ah, the songs: strong with vibrant rhythm and catchy hooks, Nash's compositional sense is another aspect establishing how special his music is. The melodies are often quite intense too...and (frustratingly) refuse to comfortably fit into any genre. Elements of pop, classical, fusion, and space seep together, leaving the audience stunned and unsure whether to dance or trance to this music.
NASH THE SLASH: Children of the Night (CD on Cut-Throat Productions)
In 1980, working with producer Steve Hillage, Nash released his second album ("Children of the Night"). Included in the 64 minutes contained on the 2000 CD release of this album are 27 minutes of bonus material, including tracks from rare singles and a few outstanding live pieces.
Under Hillage's crisp manipulation, Nash's musicianship evolved tremendously with this release (an evolution that would forever mark his future performances with a maturity and inventive savvy). His electric mandolin became slicker, almost liquid with its quasi-guitar outbursts. His violin ascended to paranormal proportions, evoking monstrous emotions unleashed into the air to prey on all comers. His electronic effects grew stranger, honing their teeth into nasty fangs to pierce the attention of even the most aloof. His keyboards expanded from background threads into solid frontispieces. His E-perc programming elevated into complex loops, adding serpentine propulsion to his frenzied songs.
As if Nash's instrumental music wasn't superlative enough, the mystery man's voice proved to add wondrous embellishments to the songs. His deep voice croons on the tasty side of hoarse, adding a commanding presence to the tuneage.
And what exemplary tuneage you'll find here! A bevy of Nash classics, like his haunting "Wolf" with its swarming clouds of agro violin strains, or his demented covers of Jan & Dean's "Dead Man's Curve", the Rolling Stones' "19th Nervous Breakdown", or his altered states version of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" (restructured by Nash into "Dopes on the Water"). Not to overlook his eerie "Swing-Shift" regaling the tribulations of a hanging execution.
There are few capable comparisons to Nash's ability to fuse elements of hard rock and contemporary electronics with a dash of classical overtones. Coupling this mastery with his compositional brilliance, the music on this CD stands out as one of the high points of independent alternative music from the Eighties, still fresh and breathlessly invigorating today.
NASH THE SLASH: Thrash (CD on Cut-Throat Productions)
After a period of inactivity, Nash returned to the studio in the late Nineties to produce this 1999 release, featuring 53 minutes of unbridled sonic fury in the form of kick-ass rock'n'roll.
Here, Nash's previous lush stylings adopt a grittier aspect with almost heavy metal influences creeping into the songs. The E-perc becomes thicker and almost stadium-rock-show in its momentous scope. His electronics are harsher, rumbling with global decimation as the keyboards appear with massive muscles. The distinctive edge of his electric mandolin becomes transformed by guttural tones, rendering the instrument from a bird of prey into a land-dwelling mauler. The shrill screams of his violin have accumulated a deadlier aspect, their vicious strains echoing like a dark force freed from an eons-ancient prison. His vocals remain powerful, but they also appear in the form of ironic commentary during the more sedate, pulsing songs (like "Theory of the Black Hole"). Some of these slower pieces exhibit a decidedly industrial mood, grinding like angry forces dedicated to long-term destruction.
Overall, this CD expertly evolves Nash's style into the Nineties and beyond, refining his sound into an attack mode that compliments current styles while embarrassing modern music with his clever hooks and bloodthirsty delivery.*****
NASH THE SLASH: Nosferatu (CD on Cut-Throat Productions)
Considering Nash's fondness for the darker side of life, it is no surprise to find that he has a fascination for old horror films. This 2001 release examples that noir love affair with a 63 minute soundtrack for the classic silent film "Nosferatu."
Haunting pastiches of bass tones and faux orchestra fill the air, punctuated by choirs that alternate between dense Teutonic moods and heavenly voices. Fanciful keyboards descend from the ominous clouds to occupy the majority of the sonic palette throughout this music, resounding with traditional (often Old World) airs as well as the modern application of sampled sound sources. Hordes of classical violins fill the atmosphere like dense flocks of crows, soaring to achieve inspirational context, and diving to punctuate drama.
One must not expect savage outbursts here, for this is a soundtrack to a classic silent film, deserving of the reverence so evident in Nash's meticulous treatment. There are, though, a few pieces that exemplify Nash's more overt tendencies, complete with E-perc and growling electric mandolin.
NASH THE SLASH/CAMERON HAWKNS/MARTIN DELLER: Lost in Space (CD on Cut-Throat Productions)
In the Seventies/Eighties, Nash the Slash played with Cameron Hawkins and Martin Deller in a band called "FM". This 78 minute CD features a selection of reel-to-reel obscurities: lost tapes and unreleased gems by this trio, who specialized in a fusion brand of progrock.
This collection begins with an extended version of "Black Noise" that possesses a savage passage of multi-layered violins amid the profusion of keyboards and analog apparatus and the searing mandolin solos. Vocals are supplied by both Nash and Hawkins.
"Phasers on Stun" displays a more delicate sensibility with fluid mandolin cascading through a nest of nimble fingered keyboards that grows into an incredible wall of sound.
Glockenspiel enhances "One O'clock Tomorrow", another soft (almost elfin) piece. Mandolin enters to attribute a distinct Canterbury sound to the music. Vocals thread their way between the instrumental passages, with a growling bass undercurrent.
The Who's classic "Baba O'Riley" has long been a fiery mainstay in Nash's solo live concerts; here you hear its original, sparser inception with FM. Sans percussion, this version features livelier keyboard tracks than the familiar loop that allows most listener's to instantly recognize the song.
The next four tracks are from the mid-Eighties demos from FM's reformation in preparation for their "Contest" album. They are stripped-down takes, displaying the melodies in simpler performances. "Friends and Neighbors" shows its techno-pop roots, while the band's cover version of the Animal's "It's My Life" is decidedly darker than expected.
Finishing up the CD is a stunning live version (from 1977) of King Crimson's "Starless" that demonstrates just as much power as the original. Nash's mandolin achieves unbelievably ecstatic heights duplicating Fripp's masterful guitar peaks.
But wait-there are five bonus tracks. The first is a moment of silence. The second is a strange pastiche of background musical hints and spoken word that details the band and its members in a fashion reminiscent of an old Fifties radio show. The third is a live agro piece of mandolin savagery and real drums that gives way to violin greatness and a bass solo. The fourth is another live track that cooks with surging passion and strong melody. The fifth (also live) is a spooky voyage into progrock with inspirational overtones.
You might be interested to know that Nash the Slash has appeared as a character in several of my comics (Changes, The Contaminated Zone, and many issues of the Savage Henry series). Interested parties can check out my online catalog.
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