EP Review: Dead Nature - 'Taking My Shadow'

Launching his new solo project 'Dead Nature', former Spring King frontman Tarek Musa showcases a more kaleidoscopic and dreamier dynamic on his debut EP.

When Spring King announced their disbandment in November 2018, the grassroots indie-rock community was left in somewhat of an abyss, especially considering that sophomore record A Better Life was released just three months before. Their talismanic, stick-wielding frontman Tarek Musa led the band to great heights over their six year career, notably becoming the first artist to be played on Beats 1, a feat which introduced them to the world overnight. Having rubbed shoulders with the likes of The 1975 when growing up, Musa has always possessed a live-wire music brain and even when his band split, few people truly ruled him out of the industry forever. Balancing a long-held talent for production and mixing developing artists with a new spurt of creativity, the Liverpool-based songwriter announced his return to music under the moniker of Dead Weather in June.

Image courtesy of Dead Nature

Written under the premise of instinct as opposed to precautionary planning, Musa’s debut EP as Dead Nature, Taking My Shadow, offers a raw, guttural look through a visor into the musician’s childhood. The rousing Fire In Your Soul, as the title suggests, is a smouldering, high-octane mix of hearty rock, with its orchestrator raining a carnal dose of instrumentation like a boxer letting loose on a punchbag.

"A smouldering, high-octane mix of hearty rock, with its orchestrator raining a carnal dose of instrumentation like a boxer letting loose on a punchbag."

A vivid window into Musa’s past anxieties and future ambitions offering a tantalising insight into the fledgling talents of an excitingly unpredictable songwriter, In My Heart’s anthemic climax springs to mind Suburbs-era Arcade Fire. The explosive undercurrent of percussion matches the verve and viscidity of the Canadian collective, whilst a cutting guitar contrasts Musa’s nostalgia-tinged vocals as the beating heart of the chorus furthermore skitters with the same volatility of a Spring King single.

A track about leaving something behind, Musa says ‘It was defiantly anchored around growing up, but equally can be a relatable song to leaving any situation behind. Sometimes you just have to make the decision to go. You don’t have to be going though the pain and the struggle. Sometimes that can be a mental thing as well, I could sit here for months at a time just feeling low about myself but inevitably you’ve got to try and call it a day. Sometimes it doesn’t work out sometimes you fail and you’ve just got to keep at it.’

"The beating heart of the chorus furthermore skitters with the same volatility of a Spring King single."

Whilst retaining the traditional aura and punchy stylings of his previous band, Musa offers a subtler eclipse on Pride (Wake Them Up), a single tackling the blurred boundary between self-respect and egotism. As the sweeping extravagance of David Bowie makes its presence known, the track came about from Musa reading about a Roman Emperor: ‘It was this idea that sometimes you can be so proud of who you are that actually you become dismissive that you might be wrong,’ he offers. 'I was reading this book about [Roman Emperor] Marcus Aurelius] about ten years ago and I was really low. I read this book which was very stoic and simplified. There was this notion that pride is actually a deceptive thing at times that can really deceive you into thinking you’re doing the right thing when actually you’re doing the wrong thing. Sometimes not having any pride at all is better, it can be a bias, swinging you to one side. Actually you want to be open, pride can be a defence mechanism at times. There are blurred lines between being proud and being stubborn. It’s this idea that sometimes it’s ok to put your ego in the door and just be open to things.’

Image courtesy of Dead Nature

Keeping a sense of earnestness, EP closer Rookwood flows from a delicate state of tranquility, using influence from the texturised core of The War On Drugs and The National, whilst reverberating a newfound, soul-based dynamic. Displayed as a lullaby song to the singer’s past, its lyrics recall the the singer’s memory of living with his grandma, missing his family and home, and lying awake, restless and sleep-deprived.

A riveting listen, Taking My Shadow offers a dash of the brash, upbeat rhythms that permeated Spring King’s back catalogue, whilst deviating from that course to provide pockets of euphoria and bubbles of nostalgia. Whilst there are moments that mirror the sound of Musa’s former band, there is a clear developmental pathway constructed for the future, due to the poignance of the softer moments in Rookwood and Pride (Wake Them Up), as well as the more personal nature to the tracks. Exploring ideas of loneliness and breaking away from the past, whilst also challenging the notion of pride, Tarek Musa has delivered an enriching, sprouting debut EP that leans on the growing maturity of the producer, mixer and songwriter. What the future will bring, who knows. Musa conjured Dead Nature to satisfy his craving for releasing music that he’s proud of. If he retired today, he can rest a happy man.