Artwork by Katrina Peterson
GRAMMY Award-winning composer, entrepreneur, and violist of the Attacca Quartet, Nathan Schram's sophomore release, Nearsided, will be available on all digital platforms on July 29th, 2022 via Better Company Records.
From its start, Nathan Schram’s second solo album Nearsided aims to get a listener’s attention. The stirring, mournful swells of sound on “Golden Gate,” feeling like a documenting of a ritual conveying increasingly intense emotion, finds Schram, also known for his work as a classical violist in the GRAMMY Award-winning Attacca Quartet, testing what further possibilities can be conveyed in the studio. Ignoring the impositions of genre terms in favor of a flowing variety of approaches and moods, from exultant joy to glowering darkness, Nearsided is, as Schram puts it, a testimony to the powers of exploration.
“While I lamented what the pandemic was doing to my industry,” he explains, “I was internally optimistic with the opportunity to spend my time learning new instruments, production techniques, and artistic perspectives. This album is a product of me realizing that I didn’t have to be held back by anything any more. If I wanted to make music on synthesizers, I would. If I wanted to sample and chop vocal samples from my wife, Becca Stevens, I would. If I wanted to write a nearly unplayable string quartet with an equally unwieldy electronic drum track, I did.”
Schram’s ear for possibilities plays out in many distinct ways throughout Nearsided, which grew organically from his home studio work as he carefully arranged and reworked each composition. Mentioning inspirations from Mahler’s symphonic work to landmark albums such as Radiohead’s Kid A and Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, Schram speaks about his frustration that modern production ideas and approaches weren’t being used more in the current world of classical music. “This was my chance,” he adds, “to dive deep and look close.”
The subtle chattering rhythms on “Portalegre” that help drive the song gain accentuation from Stevens’s treated vocals, while this differs in turn from the playful clapping and tight grooves evident on “Bad Dance Moves,” a core melodic figure surrounded by numerous further layers. Elsewhere, the intense, focused performance on “Pathetique” is both emotional and suggestive of a haunted extremity, while the sweet and gently melancholic rise of “Waterbear” has the feeling of a field recording that conveys a shift from shadow to light and back, an accompaniment to a snippet of documentary footage that never was.
”Waterbear” is a particularly special song for me,” Schram remembers, discussing the recent birth of his and Stevens’s first child. “But leading up to this wonderful moment were a lot of hardships. In particular, we suffered a miscarriage early on that took us emotionally by storm. This piece was written in the aftermath of the grieving process and became an important point of mourning for us. It’s about beauty and loss and of the spiritual connection to things that don’t, and won’t, exist. It's a precious monument to the smallest and briefest lives.” While Schram produced nearly every sound and performance on Nearsided he is quick to acknowledge the work of others in turn. Besides Stevens, other guests on the album include drummer Antonio Sanchez bringing his talents to “Portalegre” and Shahzad Ismaily contributing Moog and further treatments to “Pathetique.” Meanwhile, the gentle closing piece, “Where We Are Not,” is based on a theme from one of the unquestioned legends of rock and roll, David Crosby.
“My wife plays in a band with him and I’ve gotten to know him and his family well over the years,” Schram explains. “Long ago Croz asked me to transcribe one of his songs for strings, “I'd Swear There Was Somebody Here.” He was really moved by the transcription and asked me to add more and make it my own. For both David and I this song is about friends each of us lost in the past and what they left behind.”
Schram already has more plans for the future in place and where his artistic impulses will take him, but he hopes that Nearsided will be something that crossed boundaries and expectations to find its own place:
“Do I really want this album to be listened too after Shostakovich’s 8th Symphony? Or after deadmau5? I mean, ‘yes’ to all. I want people to walk away like one does with a great movie. I want them to see things they’ve never seen before but have a familiar emotional connection. A little laughing, a little crying, and a big breath of fresh air.”
Regarded by the New York Times as an “elegant soloist” with a sound “devotional with its liquid intensity,” Nathan is a GRAMMY Award-winning composer, entrepreneur, and violist of the Attacca Quartet. Nathan has collaborated, in the studio and on stage, with many of the great artists of today including Björk, James Blake, Sting, David Crosby, Becca Stevens, David Byrne, Just Blaze, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell and others. Nathan is a PhD student in composition at Princeton University and an Honorary Ambassador to the city of Chuncheon, South Korea.
Nathan’s first solo record of original compositions, Oak and the Ghost, was released on New Amsterdam Records and heavily featured various electronic instruments and the players of his beloved Attacca Quartet. As a member of Attacca, Schram has released records on Sony Classical, GroundUP Music, Nonesuch, and New Amsterdam Records. Attacca’s record, Orange, won the GRAMMY Award for Best Chamber Music Performance in 2020.
Apart from performing, Nathan is the Founder and Artistic Director of Musicambia. Founded in 2013, Musicambia develops music education programs and performances inside prisons and jails throughout the United States. Through working closely with incarcerated people on songwriting, performing, instrument lessons, and music theory, our musicians cultivate artistic communities that nurture the humanity of all involved. Musicambia currently runs a music conservatory in Sing Sing Correctional Facility and Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York with other programs in New York City, California, Kansas, and South Carolina. In addition to their work in the U.S., Musicambia has collaborated with projects in Venezuela and Scotland.
NEARSIDED TRACKLIST + CREDITS
1. Golden Gate
4. Bad Dance Moves
6. In Media Res
8. Where We Are Not
All tracks written by Nathan Schram.
Portalegre written by Nathan Schram and Becca Stevens.
Where We Are Note written by Nathan Schram and David Crosby.
Produced by Nathan Schram and Christopher Botta.
Mixed by Christopher Botta.
Mastered by Nate Wood.
Other featured artists listed below:
Portalegre - Antonio Sánchez, Becca Stevens.
Pathétique - Shahzad Ismaily.
Bad Dance Moves - Justin Stanton.
In Medias Res - Christopher Botta, Andrew Yee.
Where We Are Not - David Crosby.