|Chants is the debut album by Seattle multi-instrumentalist/singer Nouela. Born to Norwegian & Korean parents, Nouela Johnston spent the first 11 years of her life living in Korea and learning to love music. It is no accident that the musical craft and composition that Nouela displays on Chants feels like the endeavor of an experienced singer and songwriter; the prologue to Nouela’s career as a songsmith reveals it all. In her own words:
“My parents were both music professors when I was growing up. My mom has a doctorate from Juilliard, my dad has a PhD in composition from Princeton. They were both such hardcore musicians who spent their entire lives practicing, they essentially decided they didn’t want that for their children. They raised me in a musical vacuum. I really didn’t have too much to listen to in the house other than my mother’s classical playing/practicing and my father’s records, which were the Beach Boys, Pet Shop Boys, Beatles, Kraftwerk, Monk, Mingus, and some Weird Al Yankovic.”
Emerging from this distinctive musical climate, Nouela performed her first piano recital at the age of 4. At 11 she moved to Seattle and immediately joined her school’s jazz band.
“I wanted to learn how to play EVERYTHING. I took guitar and flute lessons, then branched to clarinet, saxophone, jazz piano, and bass. In high school I started playing shows in jazz combos for money, and started fucking around on drums. I really just wanted to learn the bembe beat for drum set because a clinic teacher said it was the hardest beat he’s ever learned.The main line to the bembe is in ‘Doubts.’”
Nouela spent her teens and early twenties fronting bands (Mon Frere, People Eating People) and cut her musical teeth recording and touring with both local Seattle groups and national acts (The Fall Of Troy, Say Hi, Schoolyard Heroes, Cursive). After having worked with a diverse stable of musicians & producers including members of The Blood Brothers and Minus the Bear, Nouela decided to streamline her creative processes and play nearly every instrument herself on Chants, even going so far as taking on the role of co-producer.
The sonic terrain of Chants appears like the dark landscape of a musically Darwinian island that mirrors Nouela’s upbringing: an enigmatic and isolated place where Carole King’s Tapestry has been allowed to co-mingle for countless generations with PJ Harvey’s To Bring you My Love and Fiona Apple’s Tidal. What emerges is a unique body of music that is both ambitious without being self-indulgent and vulnerable without being piteous. Chants is a musical flood of feelings and emotions born from the enduring toil of the human condition.