What does the Wu-Tang Clan have in common with the Grateful Dead and Björk? Nothing. But Nat Leich ’12 doesn’t care. His recently released senior thesis album, Kaleidoscope, takes diffuse elements of pop scenery and welds them together in a thirteen-piece orchestra — you might even call it a Mixtape Orchestra — that travels down Memory Loss Lane.
Listen here, and click past the jump for more about last week’s ninth-bestselling digital album on Bandcamp.
To hear him tell it, Kaleidoscope is less a concept album than a subconscious one. Leich describes its genesis thusly:
“The songs on this album come from somewhere deep within the recesses of the mind, muddled stories exhumed out of nostalgia’s heartfelt confusion.”
Apparently, Nat’s got some seriously catchy tunes in those recesses, and this is one exhumation we can all be pleased about. Vocalists Lizzie Greenwald ’12 and Brian Hyunsuk Lee ’13 deftly twirl around beautiful melodies like an upbeat Mike Viola & Kelly Jones (no?), particularly on “Maybe Yes, Maybe No” and “Thirty Years Ago.” Nat’s own guitar work sounds at first like he’s channeling Ezra Koenig (on “Treetops”), but he soon settles in the lush backdrop of violins, harmonica (a great contribution by Sam Friedman ’13), and — make no mistake — two flutes. And if what I’ve heard is true, Jake Schofield ’12 had never picked up a trumpet before. Not even once. Pretty good for an absolute noob.
I imagine playing Mixtape Orchestra’s Kaleidoscope on loop as I float along Interstate 95 — but since my car has recently stopped playing CDs, that remains a dream. The instrumentation covers a broad palette, gliding nimbly between sleepy and funky riffs from “Looking Glass House” to “Pop Noir.” All the while, Leich’s (largely light but always listenable) lyrics evoke fuzzy photographs and forgotten feelings. “There’s so many brokenhearted people in this world/Makes me feel like what I’m doing now is so absurd,” Greenwald and Lee croon on “Maybe Yes, Maybe No,” and all I want to know is, What is it you’re doing now? The answer probably can’t be neatly phrased in a Facebook status.
Either way, Kaleidoscope is an infectious album, by turns playful (“The Lonely King”), atmospheric (“The Long Year”), and probing — either by asking questions in “Thirty Years Ago,” or poking fun at folk music in “Natty the Kid Dies in a Dream.” The album recording has managed to retain most of the acoustic grandeur that was in full force at Leich’s senior thesis recital in the Memorial Chapel this spring. Let’s hope this talented ensemble continues to make music that soothes the pop-happy soul.