Before I listened to this album, Nathan Fake was a name that had already appeared on my radar: his track ‘Outhouse’ was a standout track on James Holden’s immaculate Balance entry and later Holden’s ubiquitous remix of ‘The Sky Was Pink’ ensured everyone knew his name.
Despite these glowing allusions to his ability, I wasn’t expecting much from this album before I listened to it. A discogs.com comment equating it to hollowed out IDM and it’s dubious honour of ranking as Resident Advisor’s 90th best album of the 00s didn’t do too much to whet my appetite, but I decided to take a punt on it anyway. And I’m very glad that I did.
Eighty percent of the time, I have a mixed reaction on listening to an album for the first time – it usually takes time for the music and the intention to ‘grow’ on me. I also think that a lot of the time, the vague, preconceived notions you harbour about what an artist or album ‘should’ sound like aren’t completely satisfied when you listen to it; it usually takes a listen or two to readjust them, at least that’s what I’ve found in my experience.
But it’s a rare, special thrill when an album which you harbour no expectations of at all absolutely floors you. That’s what this one did to me. In part, it’s the album’s simplicity and unaffectedness that invites a pleasurable first listening while the weave of moods on offer – warm, nostalgic, playful, overpowering – ensures a refreshing variety. Also, it’s quite a short album that’s not demanding of your time, leaving no room for staleness to set in.
‘DIASOL’ packs a huge emotional punch. Indeed, allowing your mind to soak in its evocative textures, Fake’s drones and melodies coiling and gushing, is a cathartic experience – a guaranteed mood enhancer.
‘Stops’ begins meekly: a whimsical, toy box melody peeps its head out before being accompanied by bass stabs and waves of white noise. Later, other equally giddy chimes join in before a more melancholic synth offers some low relief.
‘Grandfathered’ is an immense track. It has a five-tone melody loop that goes into overdrive after thirty seconds – a moment to turn anyone delirious. The drums skitter and lilt slightly in the middle lending an unhinged feel to the track’s second salvo of emotion that follows. If the album had a title track, this would be it – it is certainly suggests the same dizzying, ecstatic impression.
A more mysterious, haunting sentiment underlies ‘Charlie’s House’ present from the off in that wandering, looping synth melody. Aerial drones then pierce the listener’s ear before a swelling bass heightens the hypnotic effect. Those drones then take a clear, kaleidoscopic turn halfway through the track as they spiral achingly up into the ether… all the while that bewitching melody loops, loops, loops around… a truly breath-taking cut.
Just at the point when your emotional reserves are feeling drained, Fake sets up ‘The Sky Was Pink’ to arrive next. This time the synths are penetrating, almost menacingly so, as they ascend above a dusty drum break, weeping while they soar. The emotional heights this tune scales are almost painful to comprehend, they are so overwhelming in their intensity.
We’re afforded some breathing space in ‘Long Sunny.’ It begins weightlessly in a nonchalant, wispy fashion before Fake switches gear around the two-minute mark and a gorgeous, wailing guitar kicks out to produce a bittersweet cluster of emotions.
The icy beauty of the sketch ‘Bawsey’ strongly recalls Boards Of Canada while ‘Bumblechord’ is an unequivocal lament with its slow drones pining for the loss of something beautiful – a loved one, a place, a relationship, a childhood? It’s left to you to fill in the gaps.
‘You Are Here’ is yet another beautiful tune. It has a gentle, sleepy mood, yet later Fake employs his trademark ‘wall of noise’ to amp up the track’s emotional pull, sucking you in to a swirl of dreamy bliss.
‘Superpositions’ picks the tempo up a few paces with its quick, incessant melody and cymbal crashes. ‘Fell’ offers some glitchy goodness over an innocent lullaby melody before the track fizzles out. There’s a short, hidden, plaintive sketch awaiting anyone willing to hold out through the intervening silence. ‘Falmer’ rides the album out on a brief, ambient haze.
With this album, Fake proves that a lot can be done with a little. The knowing IDM enthusiast might snipe its perceived simplicity or ‘hollowed-out’ nature but it is music with a genuine intention to excite and enthrall. What Fake has crafted here isn’t simply noise – it’s noise tailored and modulated to cut to your core and boy does it hit home!