Album Reviews

Nathan Fake – Crystal Vision

(Cambria Instruments) UK release date: 7 April 2023

Imagining a world without the divide between club music and headphone music by means of a funhouse of trancey arps, squelchy bass, wheezing pads and rustling breakbeats

Nathan Fake - Crystal Vision One of the advantages of hindsight is complex narratives can be smoothed over, excising the details nobody cares about. For example, by the late ’90s mainstream dance music and what was known as ‘IDM’ were worlds apart, with only Windowlicker making a (semi) serious attempt to bridge the gap. Nathan Fake, however, is just one of countless artists now trying to reunite these disparate strands and imagine a world without the divide between club music and headphone music.

And so Crystal Vision takes us through a funhouse of trancey arps, squelchy bass, wheezing pads and rustling breakbeats. A good example of the stylistic synthesis involved is found on Boss Core, in which 4×4 beats and bumpy ostinatos merge with a shadowy synth lead. This synth gleefully mutates at the top of the mix until the halfway point, where bar-length cluster chords add more harmonic depth to the track. The percussion swings like we’d expect from a deep house track but the elements feel more metallic, angular, and the effect is deliciously funky.

AMEN 96 makes the most of its pacing, as that titular Winstons sample takes over 2 minutes to make its appearance but is instantly recognisable the second it does. The melodic riff peals contemplatively and its low-end switches from muffled booms to a gnarly jungle bassline. The Grass utilises hypnotising vocals from Wizard Apprentice (“The Sun is warm / across my back / I part my hair / offering my neck to the light”) and a two-note counterpoint which manages to somehow be ominous and bouncy, while the album’s title track owes much to Aphex Twin’s facetiously-named Alberto Balsam.

Unfortunately, on a record with lengthy song structures weak ideas have nowhere to hide. Outsider with Clark spends its runtime repeating the same sequence with diminishing returns, and Bibled may be going for a washed-out sound deliberately but the result is unsatisfying nonetheless. These serve as a helpful reminder about the limits of nostalgia – some of those old tunes that inspire Crystal Vision relied too much on knob-twiddling, and mastering techniques have come a long way from the days when too much bass would make the record skip.

Nathan Fake is technically skilled, and on tracks like Hawk his creative verve really shines, but some kinks could be ironed out on this rose-tinted trek.

buy Nathan Fake MP3s or CDs
Spotify Nathan Fake on Spotify

More on Nathan Fake
Nathan Fake – Crystal Vision
Nathan Fake – Steam Days
Nathan Fake – Hard Islands