When Nightmares On Wax first emerged into Sheffield’s early ’90s bleep and bass scene with the rave classics Dextrous and Aftermath few would have predicted that over a decade later they would still be going strong, but on Mind Elevation, their fourth album we find NOW in rude health.
Soon after their early hardcore hits, NOW turned their back on the rave scene they had been instrumental in creating, and embraced a new sound, mixing and matching hip-hop, soul, dub and world music and wrapping them all together in a dense cloud of marijuana smoke. Their second album Smoker’s Delight was just that, a laid-back down-tempo classic which soundtracked many a lost day and night, and became a firm aprés-rave favourite.
Mind Elevation takes the NOW sound and updates it. While the previous two albums had been chilled out to the point of being comatose, Mind Elevation is a much sprightlier affair. Tracks such as current single and bona-fide pop classic Know My Name, with it’s raga-esque vocal from Chyna, and bouncing hip-hop, R&B beats, are aimed as much at the dancefloor as the sofa.
But they haven’t entirely left behind their supine audience. Whilst Know My Name, Bleu My Mind and the almost Cornershop-sounding ’70’s/80’s’ are more upbeat numbers, there are still plenty of other tunes that are laid back so far they’re horizontal. Album opener Mind Eye is a typical NOW number, soulful stabs married to a shuffling beat, the perfect soundtrack to a lazy summer afternoon. And this blissed-out, hazy vibe permeates the rest of the album. Bongo Break Heaven throws together rolling percussion with some beautifully plucked strings for a perfect exercise in head nodding.
Whilst Mind Elevation isn’t about to win any awards for innovation or kick-start any new genres, it will certainly be enough to keep the fans happy – that is, if they can raise themselves from their stupor long enough to buy the album. Of special interest will be the limited edition CD that comes with the first 10,000 copies of the album, where DJ EASE cuts up a large proportion of the NOW back catalogue, chopping up the best breaks and tracks from the last couple of albums along with some previously unused material – well worth getting out of bed for.