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Record Reviews (April '20): Nathan Fake / The Pearson Memmott Conspiracy / Wajatta / J-Shadow and more...

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Nathan Fake - Blizzards

Even in this hyper-modern age, the finest music sometimes occurs when an artist confines themselves to a limited set of parameters, and Nathan Fake has done this with optimum results. Fake's fifth album on his own Cambria label has been recorded just using a restricted hardware setup, but more impressively most of the tracks were recorded in a single take. The myriad of production choices and ease of recording means artists can overthink their productions, leave them to fester and ultimately never release them - not in this case.

ever-degrading choral pads take you down the rabbithole...

The album kicks off with the expansive warehouse sounds of 'Cry Me A Blizzard', with Boards of Canada richness laid over a stuttering breakbeat that makes way for deep four-to-the-floor kicks. The rave vibes continue with 'Tbilisi', as discordant chimes and bleeps project over a workout of a beat. 'Stepping Stone' harks back to the driving techno sound of the Motor City, with wild pitch shifts among metallic stabs and wails. Things calm down with 'Ezekiel' where classic Fake is on show with fuzzy electronics, psyched-out acidic chirps and a sense of playful experimentation.

'Eris & Dysnomia' is one of the standout tunes from this eleven track release, with pulsating arpeggiators that drift in and out of focus before going up a few octaves to bring light and air into the piece. The trip concludes with the dreamlike 'Vitesse', as ever-degrading choral pads take you down the rabbithole before coming out the other side into bright Norfolk sunlight.

Andy Tattersall

The Pearson Memmott Conspiracy - The Soundtrack To An Ordinary Day

An album that's been four and a half years in the making, The Soundtrack To An Ordinary Day is The Pearson Memmott Conspiracy's first recorded offering as a band. Comprising Ian Pearson and Richard Memmott, these two South Yorkshire-born musicians are no strangers to the industry - the two multi-instrumentalists have over sixty years combined experience writing and performing music all over the country.

The two multi-instrumentalists have over sixty years combined experience

The album's key themes are dominated by changes of key and rhythm throughout the songs. This is perfectly encapsulated during the song 'Welcome To One-Six-Oh', as the first half of this eight minute track differs greatly to the second. Starting off steady with a strong keyboard focus, there's an abrupt pause midway through the track which leads into a rumbling arena rock riff which wouldn't sound out of place on a Queen record.

The musical excellence of the record is captured perfectly during 'Book Of Life', which ends with a two minute pounding drum-beat and an over-driven electric guitar that screams seventies prog. The falsetto-heavy 'Chasing Down The Demons' features wild synth eruptions and breezy melodies, which combine prog pop and art rock superbly. The counterpoint backing vocals on 'Blue Car' are incredibly comforting - something which could have been utilised to greater effect throughout the record. Pearson and Memmott's prowess as musicians and their undeniable flair is evident throughout the album.

Daniel Atherton

Wajatta - Don't Let Get You Down

At a time when society is feeling a little fragile and broken, Wajatta (pronounced wa-HA-ta) have brought some much needed comfort to the world with an excellent eleven track release that offers a melting pot of upbeat styles and sounds. Building on their 2018 debut Casual High Technology, Reggie Watts and John Tejada bounce off each other with a collection of energetically produced tracks that traverse the house and techno landscape with a pop sensibility.

The album brings out the very best of Watts and Tejada

Things kick off with the Africanism vibe of 'Renegades', a righteous piece of uplifting house and a strong opening. The album brings out the very best of Watts and Tejada, who define their sound as "electronic dance music with its roots in Detroit techno, Chicago house, seventies funk and New York hip-hop." They certainly put their money where their mouths are, as we're treated to effortlessly lush vocal house on 'Tonight' and '138' while 'January' slows things down with a deep funk groove.

Watts' vocal dexterity and range is impressive as he switches effortlessly from high-end soul into Latino-come-East London slang on 'Marmite', which everyone will love. 'Another Sun' heralds a switch to tech-house as Watts once again imbues Tejada's production before we slip further north with the Detroit techno-sounding 'All I Need Is You'. The title track is not just the standout from the album but for 2020 so far. A future classic that masters the art of good dance music with credible and infectious whistling.

Andy Tattersall

J-Shadow - The Astral Series

Beat Machine's latest release comes from London's J-Shadow, an artist known for his boundary-bending abilities and his cross-genre approach to music, which is fully on show on The Astral Series.

The opening track 'Orlov's Casket' somehow manages to cover J-Shadow's vast and unconventional sound. Being over seven minutes long, it uses his knowledge of grime, jungle, drum'n'bass and other influences to create a fascinating medley that is a perfect introduction to the release and to the artist.

If 'Orlov's Casket' is best described as a cinematic melting pot of the UK's most notable electronic genres, the centre of the EP 'NXT1' is J-Shadow's refined experimentation with grime. He doesn't let the track go to waste, allowing the five-minute head-bobber to satisfy listeners with rapid drums that arrive in bursts, a slick and excellent sampling of P Money and a broken beat topped with grime's trademark use of strange sounds. Gantz's take on 'NXT1' at the end of the EP fittingly brings the song into darker territory.

It results in a fascinating release that draws inspiration from many genres

Along with 'Acid Gene', which is reminiscent of the directions producers like Terror Danjah, Logos and Mumdance have taken with grime and experimental bass music, a large portion of The Astral Series is an interesting dive into how well J-Shadow can expand and twist the sounds that inspire him. Another highlight of the EP is its calming moment, 'Voyager', which possesses the jumpy, eclectic features of J-Shadow's work across the release, but it's less fiery, sonically lighter and easily one of The Astral Series' most memorable moments.

The EP plays out like a release where the creator is more concerned with exploring the limits of his ideas for each track rather than what he can do as an artist. It results in a fascinating release that draws inspiration from many genres but all within the pleasant, forward-leaning sound space that is J-Shadow.

Akeem Balogun

Captain Avery and the Cosmic Triceratops of Intergalactic Peace - Apocalypso Now

Captain Avery and the Cosmic Triceratops of Intergalactic Peace have recently released their new single 'Cosmika Oktopus' as the lead single of their latest EP Apocalypso Now. Although their UFO touched down in Sheffield, these colourful extra-terrestrials have begun their peaceful mission of world domination with live shows at the Southbank Centre, Shambala, the top deck of a bus, Eden Festival and a variety of other love-spreading events across the country.

Led by alien shaman Captain Jack Avery, the band aims to heal the world through spreading infinite love in music. Their 'joynoise' has been heard across Sheffield since 2017, attracting 'mutants, freaks and hippies' to their intergalactic sound, which can just as easily be confined to a genre as their spaceship can to planet Earth. Their recent releases include alien shanties, interplanetary Afrobeat, and mutant disco.

The piece is about dinosaurs on the moon and requires absolutely no foreknowledge of the lyrics

All four tracks on the EP are distinctly different from one another. 'Space is Tropical' highlights the saxophone, bringing a cheerful bounce to the rhythm through syncopation, unlike 'Earthlings of Infinite Love' which primarily features the magic of spoken word. The piece itself is one long extended crescendo and diminuendo, with the chance to whisper and shout all in the same song.

If that isn't expressive enough, 'Dinosaurs on the Moon' offers the chance to free your inner child. Just as the title suggests, the piece is about dinosaurs on the moon and requires absolutely no foreknowledge of the lyrics to join in with its Afrobeat-meets-soul hybrid. Finally, 'Cosmika Oktopus' is a punk fan's heaven, with progressively more bass and yelling that ultimately descends into madness.

Eve Thomas

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