“Day is Done” is one of Nick Drake‘s most sophisticated-sounding compositions from his debut album, Five Leaves Left. It consists of merely his voice, his complicated guitar pattern and an elaborate string part by arranger Robert Kirby. Though it’s a brief song, it has an air of neo baroque art music, due to the intricacies of the instrumentation.
As we wrote about a few weeks ago, there’s a new Nick Drake tribute album on its way. The latest track to be released from it is from former Czars singer-keyboardist John Grant. Drake’s music is inextricably associated with the acoustic guitar, so covers from keyboard players are particularly welcome as they reframe his music in new and interesting ways.
Grant slows down the song to a crawl and slowly layers different synthesizer parts on top of each other. He still keys in (sorry) on the pseudo art music sound of the original but this time the feeling is more of impressionism than baroque (albeit impressionism via ambient.) Grant doesn’t start singing until over 90 seconds into the song, which gives you an idea of the pace since the original is around two and a half minutes.
As the song progresses, Grant treats his voice with an echo. About three minutes in, some faux baroque keyboards kick in at a much faster tempo, and an elaborate keyboard orchestra places us in some kind of Tangerine Dream-meets-Switched on Bach space. That briefly drops out to Grant and just a single keyboard before many of the keyboards come back in to build to a climax. It’s a spacey, elaborate, vaguely ’70s progressive electronic version that manages to keep the mournful tone of the original while utterly reinventing the backing instrumentation.