Thursday, 20 September 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #319 - Nathan Fake, "Steam Days"

Nathan Fake is a name I've never fully written into my cultural logbooks these last few years. Drifts about he does, popping up on a Rob da Bank playlist or in the brackets of some hyped remix. He has an album with a cover made from molten WH Smith protractor sets and I will listen.

Opening track "Paean" has some of that IDM feel from ten years or so, the sense of a new space being opened up in the electronic genre for all manner of musical genre to roam around in and browse into healthy shape. But that feeling dips by the second track, fades into a meh-ish mist. It drops into a groove of medium-sized machines.

There's a vaguely underwhelming Songs of Praise feel to "Iceni Strings" that I can't quite poke my finger through. "Old Light" has a lot of the crispy old sounds you might associate with prime Boards of Canada and some acid twinkle in the middle; but is still a faint shadow of better tunes. It sounds weedy. "World of Spectrum" might signify where the music chips have come from. It's music with a 32k RAM pack. (Stitch that, obscure Eighties computer metaphor fans!) "Harnser" tries to build up some staccato bass tension and toothy analogue synth noises, but the outcome lacks fibre.

The machines are blindly reaching to out to other machines on "World of Spectrum". I'm starting to wonder whether Nathan Fake is a man or some kind of digital anti-Asimov, creating fake humans with Three Laws of Music that they are unable to break. He's way too pallid to be human, right? Individual notes seem to undergo a lot of scrutiny, shivering and cracking under the strain on "Rue"; but there is some drama lacking, something missing that would push it over from distraction to compulsion and really get me on the podium.

With a genius name like "Sad Vember" the track should be majestic, but it merely fidgets. However, the good news starts up soon after. "Neketona" is more like it - motorik, shining with burnished rubbery arcs of sound, sails inflated with momentum. "Glow Hole" also has the sound of a fax machine being violently brought back to life and some busy drum patterns, both of which I like.

"Warble Epics" is a sweet, dark closer with the BoC warped noise soundbank turned to better use. Corrupted snatches of snare smear some urgency across the palette. It's tightly wound against itself with harmonic fronds reaching out from the sides. It is a lesson to us all. I can see now why some people want his steady hands at the controls, setting them for the heart of the nearest silent moon.

Rating: Some Urgent Smears out of Spectrum Of Distant Moons

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