Album Review :
Nick Webber - All the Nothing I Know
By Casey Gallenberger in Reviews | No Comments
There are certain things that are assuredly deceptive in their simplicity – like the grainy, low-res, underexposed photo of some non-descript church which adorns Nick Webber’s latest album. In fact, if I hadn’t stumbled onto it prior to seeing the art, I think I might have skipped it entirely. I’ve crawled through Bandcamp quite a bit and I’m come to realize that bands who take their music seriously tend to pair it with artwork of a similar level.
While the picture might not adequate describe the quality of All the Nothing I Know, it perhaps describes the thematic form – one that hazily trudges through pain, uncertainty, and cynicism. Even so, there are glimpses of the transcendent and hopeful. It’s a fairly weighty album arising from the tensions of loss of certainty, seeing worldviews shake, and descent into chaos. It’s not the cleanest, most hopeful end, and there are moments where the commentary does get a bit harsh. Even so, it’s a powerful record of wrestling of the course of several years. And musically, it’s an incredible solo effort that spans nearly 50 minutes. It’s a concept album, and, as you might expect, it’s ambitious in twisting genres and moods fairly effortlessly.
Take “Ghost Variations”, the opening track. There are three distinct segments at play. It starts off akin to what you might expect from a typical singer-songwriter, focusing primarily on guitar and voice. Then, there’s a falsetto-focused bit. The track ends with the fury of full-band instrumentation. Webber seems to throw in bits of From Indian Lakes, Thrice, and Anberlin in seemingly-unpredictable proportions. “Night Terror” also concludes with a sort of mini-breakdown.
But then “Of Certain Doubts” follows, pairing simple electric piano and auto-tuned vocals. Next, there’s some sort of recording of a creaking door and people talking that is mixed in for haunting effect. The backing vocals really shine on this particular track, but they’re scattered throughout the record as a whole. The production is incredibly professional and the attention to detail, even concerning the more dissonant elements, brings things to another level.
Along with “Of Certain Doubts”, “Parabola” and “Longway” form the strongest run of tracks on the record. Webber flaunts his entire repertoire across these three tracks, with plenty of variations in genre, vocal technique, and rhythmic base. Lyrically, they’re some of the most intense songs as well. By the time “Longway” comes around, the second half of the record is in full bloom and lethargy has taken place as a primary mood. The layered vocal parts at the end are a highlight and definitely remind me of Anberlin.
The remaining tracks of the album are fairly bleak: trying to find the strength to get out of bed (told through the soothing sounds of “I Tried to Warn You”) and clinging to whatever little is left. These last few tracks are exhausted, quieter, more stripped back for the most part. Things do pick up right at the end of the record, incorporating some glitchy, programmed drums and bass for a mere moment before oscillating toward the other extreme of emptiness.
Musically, it’s a beautiful album. Webber pairs his storytelling elements with appropriate musical elements. Songs will flip from the softness of fright and doubt to the intensity of frustration effortlessly. There are touches of post-hardcore just as much as folk (there’s banjo!) and even modern pop in terms of programming. It’s a strongly-crafted endeavor. The vocal production is incredible, Webber’s voice is frankly versatile, and there are a lot of favorites on the first half of the album. Things do soften toward the end, and while I understand it’s part of story, it’d be nice to see at least a little more to fill out the last couple tracks.
As you might expect, the lyrics aren’t roses and rainbows. Take, for instance:
Oh to feel grounded again
Oh to feel anything at all
When the sower went to scatter seed
Did you determine its fall
Some fell on the fertile soil
Some got choked by the thorns
As for me, I often wonder why
You ever let me be born
It’s a poetic sentiment, and it definitely flows well in context. But to be honest, I don’t really want to live in that space constantly. It can become a dangerous feedback loop for my own thoughts and cynical tendencies. This what I appreciate about the Post Emo crew and Zane Vickery – the ability to capture strong feelings of grief and spiritual tension yet still carry hope in tandem. This is, quite frankly, not that sort of album, nor is it advertised as such. It’s honest, sure. But at the end of the day, is it the sort of journey I personally want to follow constantly? Probably not. Of course, you might be in a different place in life and this could be the sort of thing you need to feel less alone. It does follow a painful trajectory of loss, but I am curious what the other side looks like and what healing and restoration might look like. Maybe that’ll be the next album, though I would rather such things arise organically than simply rush another record – after all, this one does follow years of life and navigating challenging questions and changing life circumstances.
But all in all, this is the kind of record that stands out nonetheless. Webber is a gifted musician and producer, and his ability to blend genres and pull from so many different influences is noteworthy. Everything finds its proper place, and the songs are structured well without ever being predictable. It sounds great, and the energy is right where I tend to like it. All the Nothing I Know may not have a fairytale ending, but it’s definitely a sort of magical album nonetheless.