Natalie Jane Hill
words by tom johnson
photograph by julian neel
“I’d like to think that nature has a way of telling us exactly what we need to hear,” Natalie Jane Hill says in the introduction to Orb Weaver, the first gem to be carefully lifted and presented from her brand new album, Solely, which is released this coming October. The song finds Hill deep within that nature, deep in the flora and fauna as she journeys her way through it, the ‘orb weaver’ which gives the song its name “hanging on a dew covered web” just above her. Through that chance encounter, as Hill watches the creature spin its delicate web, she finds a sense of stillness in her lone self, but it soon gives way to memories of another, “two strangers side by side In the weeds, reaching high”. It’s that juxtaposition – as well as nature’s role in helping us find the missing pieces of ourselves – that makes the song such a fascinating introduction to her new work.
Once again, the album is released via the gentle arms of Dear Life Records, and though it’s still understated and acutely tender it also marks the first time that Hill has brought other musicians into her fold, including Twain’s Mat Davidson and “several other trusted friends”. The result is a quiet blossoming of her sound, and one of 2021’s most profoundly moving listens.
Though it follows quickly on the heels of her beautiful Azalea LP, where that debut recording was a rounding up of all the raw intricacies and varied influences of her life and work up to that point, Solely feels altogether more pointed and direct. It was written and recorded in late 2020, and followed Hill’s relocation to Austin, Texas, a move which begun an intense time of self-reflection. The results of that rumination are detailed across these new songs in ways that feel deeply moving in the written form, and even more so when paired with her magical playing and the dark shimmer of that voice which moves in slow sweeping darkness, like a river lit by the moon.
Accompanied by a suitably organic film, the new song is indicative of the gentle maturation found across Solely, while also acting as a spellbinding four-and-a-half minutes in its own right. “Orb Weaver is a song about comparing myself to the hidden intricacies that I might find on a walk in the woods,” Hill goes on to explain. “I attach most of my memories to what is visually around during a certain time. Sometimes there is a comfort to the natural world and other times there is a harshness. My experiences can almost mirror them.”
The new ten-song album is available to pre-order now, via Dear Life Record’s Bandcamp page, and be sure to check out the new song and video below right now.
Solely is released October 29th (digital) & December 3rd (physical),
via Dear Life Records
A Music Journal ~ Issue 9
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