For all his singing about light and fire, J Burton is most comfortable in darkness. He’s a long suffering songwriter — going on 20 years and counting — with a knack for a pessimist’s nostalgia, preferring to cast the amber of the past as faded glory.
His latest mask, Grand Nathaniel & The Ghosts, reincarnates the sound of virginity lost in the Reagan era — the dour dance beat of sexual ambivalence, the phony sweep of synth strings and organs, misfired drum machines, the raw edge of jaded guitars.
Burton cribbed his artistic cues from years living in the fallout era of post-R.E.M. Athens, Ga., picking through the ashes of the southern American underground to find the scribblings of obscured legends like Pylon and The dB’s. Grand Nathaniel begins in the 1990s and works backwards, traveling from Athens up the East Coast on a reverse musical timeline, taking in the post-hardcore, prog positivity of DIY Washington D.C. (Trans Am) and the chipped-tooth chic of disco punk New York City (ESG, Liquid Liquid).
by Christiaan Mader