Review : Nathan Fake - Steam Days
PitchforkThe last time I thought about Nathan Fake was earlier this year, courtesy of a vaguely unlikely prompt in the form of the Hot Chip single "Flutes". Although a typically direct pop song in the Hot Chip idiom on paper, "Flutes" is a queasy and uneven thing on record, a transformation achieved mainly thanks to its careful use of a sound that I had previously mentally filed under Fake's name in my head. That sound-- a gently keening psychedelic wail, deployed via dial rather than sample trigger-- hallmarked the early Fake single "The Sky Was Pink" and instantly provided him with something not many electronic musicians ever get; an original claim in the ongoing electronic music sound patent wars.
It's a natural tendency for listeners to reduce some electronic musicians to signature sounds or moments in our heads, which is why, even eight years after "The Sky Was Pink", I wouldn't be at all surprised if that particular sound was still the first thing that came to mind for lots of people familiar with Fake's work. Following on 2006's effervescent Drowning in a Sea of Love and 2009's rougher-edged Hard Islands, the newly released Steam Days probably won't do anything to change that, nor will it do much to get Fake out of the (now ironically) decaying ghetto of bucolic, pastoral electronic music that he helped re-colonize in the latter half of the last decade. But if the small refinements here are anything to go by, it's hard to imagine that Fake cares much about any of that at all.
If Drowning in a Sea of Love exhibited a pre-occupation with fizzy synth melodies and Hard Islands with naked, almost brutal, rhythms, Steam Days is all about the synthesis of those two sides. With its glowing, organ-led refrain and clattering percussions, opener "Paean" establishes a marriage between melody and rhythm that more or less stays intact throughout. "Old Light" and "Harnser" offset coarse drum patterns with tasteful dollops of melody. Meanwhile, with its psych-tinged synths and counterbalanced time signatures, single "Iceni Strings" aims to strike the same notes of gut-wrenching unease as "The Sky Was Pink", albeit in a slightly more muted fashion. ...full text
GuardianOh, that name, which suggests a painfully hip Hoxton ironist. Nathan Fake, though, is the nom de guerre of a precocious Norfolk child raised almost solely on Warp Records: an author of (now) three albums of blithe, fluent post-techno and inventive remixer who Radiohead recently let loose on their The King of Limbs. Midway through Steam Days, Harnser does dark pizzicato things befitting a 90s warehouse rave, while elsewhere, the analogue-melting-into-digital influence of Four Tet is palpable. Fake is his own man, though. Two tracks here celebrate his Norfolk roots, Iceni Strings most impressively....full text
FactmagNathan Fake has been quietly crafting his particularly English brand of techno for nearly a decade now – and on the face of it, little has changed on his third album. But although the drizzly, grey melancholy underlying those familiar Border Community glitchy beats is present and correct, Steam Days also feels like Fake’s most dynamic album-length work to date, and his first that matches the career peaks that have tended to come in the form of his singles and remixes.
Live percussion is blended with programmed beats throughout, making for an absorbing organic/electronic feel: cymbals crash on ‘Cascade Airway’s as though impatient with the steady 4×4 rhythm, while on ‘Paean’ beats clatter like an old steam railway. There’s a sense of nostalgia throughout, but not sepia-toned instagrammed bullshit; rather, Fake’s music harks back to something rather more ancient, with the bubbling synths of ‘Iceni Strings’ evoking primordial life spontaneously forming. It’s rarely at the expense of energy, either: ‘World Of Spectrum’ grumbles and growls as though it’s a beast that needs feeding, while the ruff that scythes through album highlight ‘Harnser”s jittery beats sees Fake get ravey in a way one has often wished he’d do more....full text
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