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Steam Days


Nathan Fake is one of the most interesting British electronic artists, with a uniquely defined style musically bound inextricably with his predominant influences - the Norfolk countryside environment in which he grew up and his lingering nostalgia for its past. In a genre dominated by urban and industrial inspirations, this instantly sets his music apart from his contemporaries, though perhaps it explains some the debt his music obviously owes to the work of another reclusive country dweller, Richard D. James.

Restless in his work, his music has moved through a variety of styles, from the trance-influenced 'Outhouse' that became a success across Europe, to the saccharine electronica of Drowning in a Sea of Love and the acid tinged Hard Islands. But it is always bound by his unique sonic signatures of ever evolving, organic synths soaked in tape saturation and a unique ear for melodies that sound familiar and fresh at the same time.

The title of Steam Days suggests more gazing into the distant history of his formative landscape, as do track names such as 'Old Light' and 'Neketona', the Celtic name for his Norfolk village. However, despite his self-proclaimed best efforts not to soak up other musical influences, he has clearly been affected by his move to London. As well as the aforementioned senses of nostalgia he has proven expert at evoking, he hints at more modern influences here, especially rhythmically, where he has drawn as much inspiration from two-step as he did on the Rephlex Records sound for Hard Islands. The combination of simultaneous nods to the future and the past makes for a dizzying musical journey.

Opener 'Paean' is a gentle reminder of Fake's sound to warm you up, synth bells lightly punctuating melodies whilst dusty ambience is peppered with percussive glitches. 'Cascade Airways', named after a now defunct airline, has the first hints of the two-step influence that comes to set this apart from his earlier work, combined with menacing acid lines that evolve shimmer through a pool of effects.

'Iceni Strings' is more uptempo and in keeping with tracks from Hard Islands with its expansion and contraction from tight grooves into heaving textures, with the following track 'Old Light' following a similar template. It's later in the album that the newer Nathan Fake styles come to the fore, with tracks like 'World of Spectrum' still unmistakably bearing the artist's signature but taking on a more urban feel, with discordant melodies and juttering broken beats.

'Glow Hole' later on is a similar meeting at the juncture between the epic expansive landscape of Fake's earlier work and the grittier, more concentrated one that he seems to occupy now. Closing track 'Warble Epics' completes this character change perfectly, with beautiful melodies never quite resolving and a rapid techno beat which accentuates both on and offbeats lending an uneasy restlessness to the music for its duration before finally resolving in fuzzy pads.

All in all, Nathan Fake has walked a perfect line, balancing new influences with the retention of what makes him unique to create a stunning album with a satisfying completeness, a lack of which was perhaps Hard Islands only weakness.

by Now Then Manchester