REVIEW: Nathan Fake, Providence

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Much has been made of the lengthy wait between Nathan Fake’s previous album, 2012’s Hard Islands, and this latest effort, Providence, released on March 10th through Ninja Tune. Burnt out from a heavy touring schedule and struggling to come up with new musical ideas, Fake experienced a serious case of writer’s block, a period of creative lassitude that seemed to have frustrated his budding career.

With the release of Providence, however, the talented musician has finally laid those ghosts to rest, producing an album that is magnificent in its scope, impressive in its complexity and emotionally charged throughout. It could well be the finest album Fake has made so far – uniting the expansive, ruminative melodies of Drowning In A Sea Of Love (2006) with the lush, layered complexity of Steam Days (2009) and Hard Islands (2012).

From the heavily arpeggiated ‘wall of sound’ synths in the title track to the more dangerous and dissonant textures of “REMAIN”, “Radio Spiritworld” and “SmallCityLights”, one of the album’s greatest strengths is its at times coaxing, at times violent, manipulation of the Korg Prophecy mono synth sound, as well as its brave employment of different rhythmic forms and drum sounds – encompassing everything from the tribal (“DEGREEFULNESS”) to the intensely introspective (“Feelings 2”).

At its very best (“unen”, “HoursDaysMonthsSeasons”), the album strikes a perfect balance between intellect and intuition: presenting songs that beguile the mind with their complex, shifting forms, cascading melodies and barely-perceptible tempo changes, while also – simply – overwhelming the listener with the sustained passion of their composition.

Providence is a cerebral album with lots of heart: an emotional tonic for the mind that calls to mind some of Autrechre’s best work. It is also a welcome return for Fake, who now continues – hiatus notwithstanding – to build his reputation as one of the UK’s most interesting electronic voices.