Review Summary: HoursDaysMonthsSeasons of frustration finally lead to fulfillment.
Nathan Fake's last few years have been tumultuous, by his own admission. He took nearly three years off from writing music after his most recent record Steam Days
due to a lengthy period of writer's block. When the creative fog finally lifted, Fake departed from Border Community, his longtime label run by fellow UK producer James Holden
and announced the release of Providence
on Ninja Tune. Fake has never been one to retread stylistic ground previously covered, and Providence
is no exception to this rule of constant progress; here we see Fake working with vocals, a completely new direction for him. Both of the previewed tracks, "DEGREELESSNESS" (with noise veteran Prurient
) and "RVK" (with BRAIDS
singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston) showcase this newfound talent, as well as unprecedented sound design from Fake, whose prior work was heavily indebted to 90s IDM titans like Boards of Canada
. "RVK" features synthwork that worms in and out of a state of digital delirium, which seems like a logical progression from his early days of dialed in sirens ("The Sky Was Pink") and warm fuzzy euphoric explosions ("You Are Here"), while "DEGREELESSNESS" features heavy use of sidechain compression, delays, glitchy sequencing, and shimmering reverb. Both tracks also hinted at different directions Fake could take Providence
: the dark cybernetic underbelly of Prurient's buried spoken word, or the glossy plastic heatstroke of Raphaelle's soaring voice.
Both of Fake's voices present themselves extensively on Providence
. While the previewed tracks are the only two songs that showcase Fake's newfound talent in working with vocals, Fake hasn't lost his touch for purely instrumental tracks. Much of the synthwork on this record was done using Korg's Prophecy synth, a favorite of progressive electronic pioneer Jean Michel Jarre
. Instead of the classical and prog influences that inspired Jarre, Fake draws from IDM veterans like Autechre
, Aphex Twin
, and every reviewer's favorite point of reference when discussing Mr. Fake, Boards of Canada. Providence
is the first Nathan Fake record where he's truly found his own voice instead of living in the shadow of more famous artists. "HoursDaysMonthsSeasons," for instance, truly could not have come from any of IDM's big three. Its slow burning buildup into euphoric dirge is too static for Autechre, too straightforward for Aphex Twin, and too progressive for Boards of Canada. It's also the best depiction of his writers block possible, struggling for each of those periods of time before finally managing to create something worthwhile. Later in the record, "SmallCityLights" showcases relentlessly glitchy sequencing, both in the percussion and the synthwork that seems to cut in and out like a faulty headphone cord - in a good way, of course. "feelings 2" - a companion piece to album opener "feelings 1" closes out the album with elegiac arpeggios that eventually descend into nothingness.
Taking a five year break from releasing music can be a deathknell in most scenes, as hype and name recognition are tantamount to the music business. Fortunately Nathan Fake's Providence
marks a triumphant return to form as well as an exciting new journey. Writer's block is likely the most terrifying affliction for any creative-minded person, and this chronicle of Fake's struggles with it bare his soul in profoundly emotional IDM. While it seems an absurd comparison, the tracklist reveal immediately reminded me of emotive hardcore group City of Caterpillar
, with their similarly titled "Minute-Hour-Day-Week-Month-Year-(The Faiths in My Chest)." And overall, the range of emotions displayed here is akin to the emotional range of a skramz band. Barring another bout of writer's block, Fake's future endeavors should have any IDM fan salivating.