Sydney artist Natalie Dietz is 26 years old, but her vocal and compositional talents qualify her as an old soul. Her recently released eponymous debut EP comprises four tracks, three of which she has written. It was recorded in New York and opens with Believe In Love and, by the end of the song, even if you’ve been once (or more) bitten, and find yourself twice shy as a result , she’ll have you ready to climb back in the saddle and ride off into another elusive sunset.
Dietz’ stock in trade is intimacy. Her warm timbre is reminiscent of the sweet smokiness of a clarinet, or that elusive sunset itself. ”It can seem so far away, like a childhood melody I used to sing”, to use her words. But, even while floating by, like a fresh, ethereal, breeze, it’s as close and familiar as pillow-talk, Resting on a supportive, featherbed of percussion, bass, piano and guitar, the melody comes in gusts of rhythm, the lyrics floating and flying over the top, in languorous phrases. Hers is a siren song, that insinuates its way into your awareness. Easy does it. And does it beautifully.
Justin Brown tips and taps his toms; Mike Moreno’s guitar ever-so-gently underpins the melody; Josh Crumbly’s acoustic bass sets up the distantly funky, syncopated rhythm; Aaron Parks piano accompanies Dietz’ vocal and does much of the driving. Moreno’s solo on the opening cut is effortlessly fluid and sublimely echoed by Parks, with all the instrumentalists proffering the most subtle, yet sensational, musical moments.
Dietz’ voice has a resonance that has her waver between a debt to her lyrics and homage to woodwinds of various timbres: now, she’s a native flute; then, she’s an oboe. Sometimes, one can almost hear the smooth rasp of sax. At others, she’s none too fussed to let her words melt into sounds. It makes for the most mellow of seductions, especially when matched to Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Corcovado. Bossa nova leans more towards jazz than samba in this chilled-out, laid-back lullaby, in which Gene Lees’ English lyric is honoured by the melancholic colour of the arrangement. While Moreno’s guitar gently weeps; the most meditative and mellifluous of piano parts by Parks ekes out, floating on the surrounding silence. Notes trickle and tickle, while Crumbly’s bass beats like a heart, at rest. Underneath, Brown ensnares with his whispering brushwork. Again, Dietz isn’t the vocalist out front, so much as another instrument, completing the quintet. This is the soundtrack for quiet thoughts, quiet nights and quiet dreams, played by quiet stars.
The Mood I’m In has Dietz harmonising, sweetly, with guitar, to the point where the two almost evanesce. Meanwhile, Crumbly’s busy as a bee, albeit at the level of a the faintest buzz, working seamlessly with Brown’s global travel around his kit, tip-toeing from cymbals, to snare, toms and back, in a gentle rhythmic sweep. Parks’ standout solo enjoys the sympathy of Moreno’s toasty vibrato.
Listening to Dietz’ debut is a little like being handed a glass of Mornington Peninsula pinot and being told one can revel in the bouquet of cherries, plums and raspberries, but not partake any further. Such a tease, Dietzy. Where’s the album, pretty please?