Captn K is hardly a new artist when it comes to chronological time. Nathan Nisbet, the artist behind this moniker, has been producing music in one form or another for over 12 years. From beachy surf rock to experimental breakbeats to house, Nisbet has explored it all with a lofi hipster vibe and a smooth, Beck-esque voice. Sometimes releasing under his given name, sometimes as Captn K or collabing under the name Blind Tiger, Nisbet’s always kept it cool with a bit of a vintage vibe.
Nisbat’s latest Captn K release is an EP called Salad Days and seems to be one where he definitively wanted the sound to lean heavily towards house music, and specifically deep house. There’s a late 80s/early 90s vibe that makes this EP beyond just lofi or vintage, and with the EP’s first single and title track, we begin to see why.
While a lot of Nisbet’s work has heretofore conjured a sort of vintage Hot Chip-meets-Cut Copy-meets-Beck vibe, there’s something a bit more genuinely EDM to “Salad Days.” This is beyond pop or lofi and could genuinely be mixed in a rave set, especially in the 90s or early 2000s. Highly danceable but still super-chill, Nisbet seems to have brought not just his decade-plus of experience to this track and others on the EP, but something more like a story than just a vibe.
Case in point, the video for the “Salad Days” single. Released about a month ahead of the full EP, this video ties in the 90s deep house vibe contained therein with, what else, 90s skateboarding footage. Ravers and skaters are iconic symbols of the 90s and this video give a little punch to the nostalgic feeling to the song’s lyrics as well. Nisbet himself is in many of these videos, and as the lyrics drive the point home:
Those Salad days are over; I’m a little scared, won’t you stay with me; The river don’t flow through here no more.
And you dance in front of the mirror to a band that’s poor.
The lyrics point out the other inspiration for this EP, which is the quarantine generation. It’s no surprise that GenZ are relating more and more to the somber, indie, apathetic vibes of the 90s, both musically an aesthetically. A mini-grunge revival? Sounds right on track for the disillusionment of 2020, but Nisbet as Captn K wants to assure us all that there’s still fun to be had and perhaps even more interesting art and music can come of it. There’s no shame in “dancing in front of a mirror to a band that’s poor,” after all, if the music is good and you’re enjoying the dance.
The rest of the EP is even more directly aimed at the feelings and sounds of quarantine. “Unspoken Words,” for example, points at the lack of communication and breakdowns therein that are a symptom of 2020: destroyed relationships, stress, bad news…but also the ability to connect even deeper with the people we really love. There’s a double-edged sword feel to all the tracks on the EP, both in sound and in substance.
There’s a reason Generation X is being called upon to impart some wisdom so much lately, where history’s middle children are normally ignored. More than the just the music and style, more than “fixing cancel culture,” (Boomers won’t be getting their way with that one), it’s about sitting still for a moment on the couch, thinking about and contemplating things deeper than our own navels and going within. As latchkey kids for years, the GenXers know we can do a lot with this time and it doesn’t all have to be happy, motivated or even noble, but it does have to be honest. With Salad Days, Nisbet as Captn K is laying all that messiness out with impeccable musical style, and whatever it may mean to each listener, it’s worth a listen.