The presence of Nightmares On Wax – aka George ‘E.A.S.E’ Evelyn – on the Warp label always felt like an anomaly. This is a label that has consistently offered up the strangest and most challenging music: the mechanical noise of Autechre and the nightmarishly compelling Aphex Twin immediately spring to mind. They are, in essence, the worst nightmares of the average radio playlist-scheduler. Against such a backdrop, Evelyn’s down-tempo hip-hop stylings sound unusually conventional, boring even. Yet, Nightmares On Wax have been a constant presence at their Warp home for 25 years – in fact, Evelyn has been their longest serving artist – and N.O.W Is The Time (see what they did there?) is a comprehensive compilation to celebrate that fact.
Whereas some of his label-mates created innovative sound textures that were designed to provoke and discomfort, Nightmares On Wax’s raison d’être was to create tunes to soundtrack innumerable post-club comedowns. The problem with this approach is that it all now seems a little dull. In truth, the first brace of songs here – ‘You Wish’, ‘Mind Eye’, ‘Argha Noah’ and ‘Calling’ have not aged well. These days, Evelyn’s ambient, vaguely funky tunes now sound rather mannered, sometimes bordering on innocuous muzak. It is only when we get to ‘Les Nuits’ from 1999’s Carboot Soul album that the real magic happens. It is, of course, a late-night radio classic, a perennial favourite in hipster cafes and bars at the turn of the millennium. Evelyn’s other work, however, has not passed into the public domain in such a positive way. N.O.W Is The Time feels more like a salute to his longevity rather than a celebration of consistently great music.