Fred Nagel’s sophomore album Normative is the product of a musical mind that deserves to be unleashed on to the world
Nagel, the holder of a BSc in Architecture, is someone who doesn’t consider himself a real musician but, rather, someone who just enjoys making music – although, judging by the quality of the two albums he’s released to date, that strikes me as self-deprecation more than anything else.
With classical training in violin and piano and a love for the heavier side of rock, Nagel’s musical interest ranges from classical all the way through to something called meme music – someone needs to explain that to me – and touches on jazz (which he picked up at the Tshwane University of Technology), as well as death metal which, unsurprisingly, he fell in love with on a trip to Finland.
On his journey to becoming a mostly-solo artist Nagel played in bands such as Balyios, Sentyre, and a rock ‘n’ roll outfit called Monkeys, where he learnt the ins and outs of making music for public consumption.
All of that leads us to Normative, an album that fuses Nagel’s love of music and architecture while also exploring ideas and conventions from other creative pursuits. Apart from the sisters and girlfriends and fellow musicians and lecturers who all had minor contributions – you can find more on that in the charmingly self-indulgent Making-of YouTube series – Nagel brought the entire record to life himself.
The fact that it’s self-produced puts the cherry on the top of a really quite remarkable offering. With a rock-opera flair Normative runs the gamut of musical styles, touching on everything from prog and heavy metal through to the banjo-driven rap of “Seriously” with a hand so professional and well-versed you’d be forgiven for thinking there was a team of seasoned musical veterans behind it.
Truth be told it’s frustrating that Fred Nagel doesn’t see himself as a real musician. Every second of Normative is evidence of a musical mind so brilliant it would be nothing short of criminal to hold back.