Ma Nat’s Social Stories
If an artist is looking for an effective way to illustrate the mess humans have made of the world, empathy for animals is a tried-and-true approach. That’s not to say that Ma Nat’s Social Stories, the debut album by the Bath-based, experimental spoken-word collective, is the next Watership Down. It’s not even what I could responsibly call good music. But Ma Nat isn’t interested in hits or, on several atonal tracks, melody. They aim to unmask the absurdity of our social norms through poetry, often set in the context of our furry or feathered friends. And in this, they succeed. “I will not shout at dogs,” announces the record’s opening line. These “I” statements are scattered all over Social Stories, usually delivered in a flat, tragically formal monotone: “I will not feed the crows,” “I will be a perfect gentleman in mixed company,” “I will shake your hand and let it go after the appropriate amount of time.” As the instrumental backing shifts from found-sound electronics to atmospheric acoustic guitars, Ma Nat paints a picture of a brainwashed, post-Animal Farm world. Like a hungry creature, it’s just trying to get your attention.