Album Reviews

Nathan Fake – Hard Islands

(Border Community) UK release date: 18 May 2009

Nathan Fake’s first album for Border Community caused something of a stir. Drowning In A Sea Of Love, with its shimmering synthesizer and guitar textures high in the mix, confirmed the young East Anglian was in the grip of a love affair with shoegaze, and its clever update of a 1980s sound made a strong impact.

Second time around and you’d be hard pushed to recognise him as the same producer. There is a much harder sound, more acidic, grating on the ear sometimes. The music is a much bolder statement of intent as a result, up for the fight straight away. With crisp beats, cutting bass lines and probing treble riffs the music powers forward with real intent, yet keeps a closely woven structure that the brothers Hartnoll would doubtless admire.

So what at first indicates an extended EP of little more than half an hour’s music ends up making a strong impact, as Fake moves through sound fields that are closer to Warp circa 1992, barely pausing for thought along the way. Even the breakdowns in the faster pieces feel like they’re heading somewhere quick, so the feet barely touch the ground as we segue directly from one track into the other.

Emotionally things are less certain too, the track titles indicating Fake has been looking back towards the Norfolk village where he grew up for inspiration. The harmonic restlessness of The Curlew is abruptly cut short by the hammering kick drum and sharp bass of Narrier, a widescreen track that could have come from the sequencer of Aphex Twin.

There are more settled moments, but these are further afield. The strong chord sequence that supports Basic Mountain is one of these, its central loop taken on a journey of sound that brings in a gorgeous, full whoosh of euphoria.

Where Fake really impresses in his music is in the mastery of his equipment and the economy of his writing, each sound seemingly inevitable while the music keeps moving. The final Fentiger, another nod in the direction of his roots, rolls in with a cavernous drum sound to complete the record with a style that gets progressively more funky.

Impressively, then, Nathan Fake has shown he is very much more than a one trick pony, with a bold second album statement that gets more impressive with every listen. We should watch his every move closely.

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Nathan Fake – Hard Islands