Having toured with Flying Lotus and played on Cosmogramma, Until the Quiet Comes, and Thundercat's The Golden Age of Apocalypse, Oliver Johnson is a natural fit for the Brainfeeder label, where he lands with his third album. As he did between his 2009 debut and 2014 follow-up, the producer took his time and scrupulously avoided repeating his approach in making The Nature of Imitation. Although '70s fusion, '90s electronica, and other cited influences have wriggled across previous Dorian Concept releases, they're amplified here by Johnson's comparatively organic method of track building, which emphasizes hand-played instrumentation as its foundation. Aspiring to provide a "tongue-in-cheek 'parody of nostalgia,'" these tracks to the contrary aren't lacking in wholehearted emotion and sound like the work of the same screwball synthesist who made When Planets Explode and Joined Ends. Combined with a higher level of musicality kept in check with a greater sense of nuance, The Nature of Imitation is Johnson's most accomplished and enjoyable album. Bursting with joy despite a drastic reduction in dainty frills, it often evokes routines with double- and triple-jointed dancers, enhanced with blissful if incoherent layered vocals. At its giddiest -- brilliantly knotty highlights "J Buyers," "No Time Not Mine," and "Pedestrians" -- the album reflects the feeling of a child who is about to hit the bike shop with a gift card burning a hole in their pocket.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman