This Nahko and Medicine for the People article was written by Hugues Tyson, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Michael Liggins
Nahko and Medicine for the People are more widely known for their live performances rather than their releases; in fact ‘Dark as Night’ is their first actual album, despite having been on the Pacific North West music circuit for quite a while now.
From a band that regards their genre as ‘Real Talk Music’, you can be forgiven for rolling your eyes before even listening to the album, and regarding it as a standard hippyesque Oregonian/Washingtonian piece of music. However, going in with that mindset will allow you to be surprised, and pleasantly surprised you will be.
One of the many positives about ‘Black as Night’ is the wide range style of music, from simple acoustic folk in songs like ‘Budding Trees’ to a more vibrant reggae sound in songs like ‘Warrior People’. Again, derision in regards to the song titles will no doubt be met from the cynics among us. You wouldn’t be wrong if you expected lyrics politically and environmentally charged, but that does not take anything away from the quality of the music, or the word play from charismatic lead man Nahko Bear.
‘Dark as Night’ starts off with the piano led ‘Aloha Ke Akua’, definitely one of the stronger songs on the album. Within this track Nahko showcases his classical training with the first minute of the song dominated by an overarching piano piece, with plucking strings working their way into the song providing depth. However after the first of minute or so the song explodes into life. ‘Aloha Ke Akua’ then becomes much more upbeat and the tempo increases greatly, with drumming taking over from piano. This style of music is what Nahko and Medicine for the People do best; an almost orchestral use of different instruments, merging classical strings with a rhythmic drum beat, there’s even some record scratching involved. Always the case with Nahko and Medicine for the People there’s a great deal of thought and life advice put into the lyrics.
The most upbeat track on the album is ‘Risk It.’ Immediately the song grasps you, with the quick tempo and eloquent imaginative lyrics: “I heard, I heard, yeah the wild horses/and blazing new trails through uncertain territories/and I take a token and reflect with coyotes.” However, even ‘Risk It’ offers musical development within the song; with the outro of the track being considerably slower and working superbly as an outro, relying on vocal harmonies and a simple bass line accompanying a strumming guitar.
Track number six ‘Budding Trees’ is the most basic song on the release; it’s easy to imagine being sat around a fire singing along to this track, or listening to it when travelling on a mini bus in the middle of nowhere, in this regard a song most befitting of Nahko and Medicine for the People. The simplicity does not take anything away from the quality of the song, again vocal harmonies are key, with Nahko’s word play allowed to take precedent.
The other strongest track on the album has to be ‘My Country’, a highly critical social commentary on modern day America. Within the song Nahko’s intelligent word play is prominent, following the same structure as the well known patriotic song ‘My Country, ‘Tis of Thee’ Nahko cleverly works in his own critical view of the US while sticking to the original song by Samuel Francis Smith: “My country ’tis of thee/sweet land of industry/we’ll break your back/Clean out your minerals/fill you with chemicals/we kill for what is profitable/oh concrete world.”
However despite the lyrics of the album being one of the strongest factors, they can also be regarded as one of the weakest. Nearly every track on the album is either politically charged or reliant upon discussing a way of life that involves meditating and mother earth. Simply put, listening to over an hours worth of songs about how to live your life or how the current world we live in at the moment is a bad one, will not be everybody’s cup of tea.
Ultimately ‘Dark as Night’ is a musically complex and thought provoking album, however it will not be for everyone; if you can put aside your own personal political and social views, you’ll be in for a treat.
‘Dark as Night’ is available now via Medicine Tribe Records.