Album Reviews

Nathan Fake – Steam Days

(Border Community) UK release date: 27 August 2012


Three albums down already for Norfolk’s Nathan Fake, who proudly proclaims Steam Days to be his best work so far. It appears to be a blend of the best elements of records one and two, bringing the harder beats of Hard Islands in to being with the softer textures of Drowning In A Sea Of Love, and will do much to boost his reputation as an electronic music maker to keep a close eye on.

There is a growing sense of maturity in Fake’s work, but also a continued willingness to experiment, and because of that Steam Days carries a great deal of conviction, right from the off. Fake’s reverence from the past occasionally comes to the fore – and Old Light sounds like a recently discovered riff played on a 303 trying to break out of its box – but there is a real sense of the new and untried here too.

Glow Hole is especially striking, powering forward until its ultimate disappearance, with a whoosh that sounds like a plane disappearing off the end of a runway. Harnser, meanwhile, plants a catchy riff right in to the middle of proceedings, one of the more obvious moments to pack the dancefloor but still carrying an edge that might take it elsewhere at any moment.

Like labelmate and fellow East Anglian Luke Abbott, Fake manages to incorporate a sense of the pastoral in to his work, and Rue is a moment of uncommon beauty, a serene and beatless interlude that works perfectly in the context of the busy music round about it. The opening Paean, meanwhile, could be likened to the effect of witnessing dappled sunlight stream through dense pockets of leaves, an example of how Fake has made his music strongly illustrative. In this sense some of his work approaches that of Kieren Hebden’s Four Tet, with an apparent willingness to leave the door open for analogue sounds to the fore.

There remains a sense of the weird, too, a feeling that the music is somehow haunted by the Norfolk coast. Visitors to that part of the world might know what is meant by this, for the dunes of the North Norfolk shoreline carry a lot of untold secrets and fiercely intense emotions. Steam Days does this too, its feelings often bubbling just under surface level.

This is, then, an extremely fine piece of work, another auspicious addition to the already impressive Border Community canon. Organic techno is not a genre label that sounds like a recipe made for success, but it seems the best way to describe the music of Fake, who is able to use electronics and emotion together. Should he continue this upward trajectory, he could be set for great things.


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