Since releasing his debut full-length, Green Twins on ATO records in May of last year, New York City-via-Washington D.C psychedelic soul singer/songwriter Nick Hakim shows little sign of slowing down.
Green Twins weaves a tapestry of longing and nostalgia peppered with innocent and sharply introverted observation; Hakim speculates on his lover’s resemblance to god (Bet She Looks Like You), nightmares of a relationship past due to self-sabotage (Green Twins) and the pursuit of reconciliation (Roller Skates).
Passion is the key here. The production washes over you with waves of layered vocals, wobbly guitars, dusty sampled beats and at times, elation and cacophony; there remains a glue of longing, innocence and growth in between that defines the emotional core.
The beauty of experiencing this genre-bending work live is the viewing of an emotional, layered and complex work stripped back to the limitations of a live band, free from studio trickery and the cascades of layered vocals and screams present on the record; plus as a bonus, you really get the sense that Hakim is outright consumed by the music which, of course, is captivating to watch.
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Hakim twitches, convulses and yelps as he performs, though mostly, his gaze is fixated on outside forces; he seemingly takes on the persona of a tormented preacher who searches fruitlessly for redemption, gesturing and screaming hell fire onto an invisible jury that judges him. It breathes a palpable and explosive sense of life into the slow burners; Needy Bees, Farmissplease and Bet She Looks Like You explode into triumphant release with every screech and call to reaches unknown.
The band deserve props as well; it is obvious that care has been taken to sit back in the mix and let the songs do the work, and Hakim’s crew of head-bobbing friends achieve this task with ease. There is a sense of comfort and relaxation on stage, with smirks and whispers being shared between songs, lending itself to something of a cosy, house-party atmosphere.
Furthermore, Hakim came equipped with a new song for the audience to sink their teeth into. Mid way through the tune, Hakim related a story of his teenhood in Washington D.C, wherein after being woken up by the sound of gunfire, he and a friend discovered a man, dressed in black, with multiple gunshot wounds in his chest, lying in an alleyway. It was a moment of honesty, clarity, and the one moment that suggests that for all his rawness and boundless potential, seeing Nick Hakim live will bring you closer to his world than simply bumping Green Twins repeatedly will.
Despite the performance being captivating and the musicianship tight a, those hoping to experience the dreamy washout of sound that Green Twins offers in full, carbon copied reverence may feel slightly at odds with some of the changes that the live setup brings to the music.
There is a slight touch of emptiness to the live sound, especially in the vocal harmony department. The trade off is that the live experience offers a lot more to stimulate you in an instrumental and lyrical sense, so gear heads, lyric lovers and song craft scholars, rejoice. But those looking for exactly the same catharsis offered on the record, wherein the choral, falsetto arrangements carry the peaks and troughs to lofty heights may find themselves slightly surprised at how much of a difference it makes. Be prepared for a much more raw experience.
But then again, isn’t this why we go to live shows? To have our expectations chopped, screwed and put back refreshed with a lollypop and a sticker saying we’ve been brave? If you want to witness a new talent on the fast track to reaching new creative heights and experience the best cuts from one of 2017’s finest albums in a new way, do yourself a favour and check Nick Hakim out when you can. You won’t regret it.