There’s something spiritual about the pluck of nylon strings against Henry Nozuka’s rich and raw vocal tone. The sustained notes of what sounds like a saxophone mixed with vocal harmonies give orchestral weight to the minimalist mix of “Into the Wild”, a stunningly beautiful song from Henry Nozuka’s debut album Ember of the Night. Although the multi-instrumentalist from Toronto has been working with producers River Tiber and Susan Rogers, Ember of the Night is his first solo album —written, performed, and recorded by Nozuka—his professional experience profoundly evident in the subtle yet powerful composition of “Into the Wild”.
“Into the Wild” introduces us to Nozuka’s imagination while recalling Nick Drake’s soft-spoken odes to life’s fragility. The song is arranged with such skill that its impact is equivalent to a song with a much denser mix while maintaining that integral organic folk feel. Nozuka’s voice is charged with a quiet energy, telling a tale of returning home “under the moon of the midnight sun, and by the sky where the world is from”. Invoking nature’s timeless motion with the imagery of “leaves carried one by one”, Nozuka’s songwriting is poetic and exposed: “remember the words that will carry you home”.
Gently leading listeners into an imagined land brought to life in the melody, Nozuka’s words are a guide “into the eye hidden by your sight”. Calling to mind the scattering of ashes in a sacred place, the line “oh there you were flown away, turned to gray” reminds us “the day will come” when our human nature returns us to the earth.
The sentiment in every second of “Into the Wild” is anything but grim. Instead, the song draws out the human fear of mortality like poison from a wound. The arrangement not only highlights Nozuka’s technical proficiency, but the tension of strings against hollow bodies, and the movement of air through breath and brass. The quality of unadulterated voices connects us to something beyond our immediate reality. Whether reaching for some kind of spirituality or simply touching base with our humble place in the natural world, “Into the Wild” is a refreshing calm in the cycle of daily life.