Nathan Fake

Providence

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Nathan Fake's fourth album (and first for Ninja Tune), Providence, was conceived as the producer overcame an extended period of writer's block that left him unable to create any music for a few years. He recorded much of the album on a Korg Prophecy synthesizer from the mid-'90s, which proved to be more challenging than he anticipated, but it forced him to push the equipment to its limits. This is nothing new for Fake, as his music has always been vivid and emotionally striking, but for him it ended up being a necessary exercise, and renewed his creative spirit. While the album undoubtedly sounds like the work of Nathan Fake, it's still a departure from his previous releases. It's most certainly not an album of club tracks (although he generally saves those for his singles), and much of it shuns conventional percussive elements, instead focusing on dizzying sequences and smeared, warped textures. The title track does feature a complex array of slapping beats and ticking hi-hats, along with jittery, footwork-inspired bass. It's the rapid, crisscrossing synths that steal the listener's attention, however, and contribute to the track's vital sense of urgency. Prurient guests on "DEGREELESSNESS," providing unintelligible murmurations under a dubby, shuddering beat and what sounds like acid-soaked, melting church organs. "CONNECTIVITY" seems to end up closest to the shoegaze-influenced hazy sound that earned Fake's debut full-length (2006's Drowning in a Sea of Love) so much acclaim, but is far more urgent and panic-stricken than that album's fuzzed-up downtempo. "SmallCityLights" is a piece of squirming, blown-out electro with frazzled synths that approximate guitar soloing. "RVK" is a futuristic avant pop song that starts out with skittering beats before vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston (Braids, Blue Hawaii) shows up out of nowhere halfway through the track. Providence was recorded fairly quickly, as it came to Fake in a sudden burst of inspiration, and while it often sounds messy, usually it's endearingly so. It's a daring album, and in its best moments, the listener gets a sense of how fulfilling and soul-cleansing its production must have been.

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