For Natalie Prass, waiting for the right moment is probably something the accomplished songwriter knows better than most. After penning a deal with long time friend/collaborator Matthew E. White’s label Spacebomb Records in 2013, Prass had to wait a full two years for her debut album to see the light of day. White’s own release as well as others on the label saw Prass’ album sidetracked to make sure it got the attention it deserved. When it was released, it received critical acclaim and took Prass across the world including three appearances in Ireland this year.
Skip forward to autumn this year and Prass has returned to Spacebomb HQ to record her new EP, Side By Side (Live at Spacebomb Studios). As with her debut, Prass has utilized the Spacebomb house band and the result is five tracks of lush, warm, live-tracked goodness. The EP comprises of two originals taken from her self-titled release and three covers chosen by Prass.
For her own songs, Prass ditches the intricate and admittedly beautiful string and horn sections found on the original recordings and offers a different kind of intimacy through stripped down, honest performances. On ‘My Baby Don’t Understand Me’, the first minute of vocals and keys is hauntingly delicate and yet somehow more powerful than the original ornate version.
Alongside her own work, Prass has chosen a mixed bag of covers: Anita Baker’s ‘Caught Up In The Rapture’, Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sound Of Silence’ and Grimes’ ‘REALiTi’. Each one is given the same attention to detail as Prass’ own originals.
‘Sound Of Silence’ is reworked into something closer to a Motown song than its folk roots, while ‘REALiTi’ is given a slightly jazzy feel. The real beauty of live recording is present here on ‘Caught In The Rapture’ though, where the band really gel and little ambient noises like drumsticks hitting rims or the sound of the room give the track its weight.
For just a five track EP, Side By Side is possibly the perfect length. Expertly crafted songs played out by a solid band result in involuntary foot tapping and tugs at the heartstrings. A special mention should also be given for the quality of the recording here. In the digital age of metronomic music, to hear a band push and pull is a wonderful thing and only adds to the overall intimate feel of the record. With a running time of just twenty-one minutes, the only problem with this EP is it just doesn’t last long enough.