Towards the end of a five-year break beset by writer’s block and creative frustration, Nathan Fake admitted that once he cracked the direction of his new album Providence the writing came together very quickly. The album doesn’t sound like it – the onetime Border Community mainstay has swapped uplifting beauty for muddy rumbles, with all the drama of a twig-covered man crawling out of a swamp primed with stories of his adventures with Swamp Thing. It’s hard to imagine many of these tracks becoming the kind of inescapable club hits that ‘The Sky Was Pink’ or ‘You Are Here’ were, but that’s far from the point.
The album’s title track kicks things off rather inauspiciously, with trap-like matchstick percussion and neon-bright synth waves that comes uncomfortably close to giving a headache rather than representing one. ‘HoursDaysMonthsSeasons’ is where the album really gets moving, with the undulating riff complemented with a bass rumble that suggests the movement from dark undergrowth to radiant rainforest. ‘Degreelessness’, a collaboration with dark ambient titan Prurient, isn’t so optimistic, with distorted gurgles and harpsichord plucking resembling Autechre at their least celestial.
The album moves between such moments of rave signifiers forced through a grater, and ambient sketches. Both approaches have uneven results – placing ‘Connectivity’ late in the album does it no favours when it does not do enough to distinguish itself from the other tracks based around a single sharp pulse that risks annoyance. ‘RVK’, the only track to feature vocals (courtesy of Raphaelle), utilises the trap sounds sparely, and the repeated lyric (“I saw the offering… I should have gone for it”) amps up the already palpable drama the album established. Closer ‘feelings 2’ is pleasant and evocative as one of experimentalist Conrad Schnitzler’s pieces from the 70s, a gratifying comedown from the darkness that comes before.
Like his former labelmate James Holden, Fake has come out of an artistic slump with the usual rules applied to club artists left behind as waste. The results, while not exactly masterpiece-level, is well worth a listen for anyone who enjoys their electronic music weird and confrontational.