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Nathan Fake
Crystal Vision Siobhan Kane , May 4th, 2023 10:18

Nathan Fake looks back to move forward, finds Siobhán Kane

“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home” – so wrote James Joyce in 1922’s Ulysses, and whether or not Nathan Fake has been reading one of the jewels of modernism is really neither here nor there, but Crystal Vision is all about this very thing–making sense of the past in order to make sense of the present.

We find the electronic artist in reflective, rare form, rooting around his history, the music that built him, and still inspires him. We are partly brought back to his relationship with James Holden’s wonderful label Border Community, a sanctuary of sorts, but this is also about something more, about foundation stones, and how sometimes we need to return to them in order to breathe anew, there is a nod to Aphex Twin here, and a tilt towards Boards of Canada there.

But he has always given a great sense of wonky homage, from his 2006 debut Drowning in a Sea of Love, with its influences of krautrock and shoegaze, to 2020’s Blizzards which took innovative percussion as a key touchstone. Crystal Vision does indeed seek to provide a kind of crystal vision, resulting in a more direct love-letter to the ties that bind, and in doing so Fake weaves a sense of body, community and connectedness.

‘The Grass’ (featuring Wizard Apprentice) instantly immerses us, with its skittish techno brilliance, conjuring images of a furiously cascading river, leavened by Wizard Apprentice’s glacial, calming vocal. ‘Vimana’ engages interesting textures, turning arpeggios inside out, crumbling and coaxing towards Italo disco but taking a left turn at trance. ‘Boss Core’’s squelchy sonics, synths, and drum machines recalls elements of Autechre, also spiritually referenced in the title track, with its pleasingly jangly, romantic melody.

The minimal ‘CMD’ is similarly romantic in conceit, it is dreamy in its sense of nostalgia, and how we communicate and connect. Self-described “power ballad” ‘Bibled’, with its classic breakbeats also folds in the past, calling on the spirits of doo wop and trance – trance wop? With chords and sounds seeming almost out of time, it is discomfiting, a melancholy elegant gem, with the Chicago house of ‘Hawk’ equally disorienting as it moves around mighty square wave synths and glitchy drums.

‘AMEN 96’ is masterful, an invocation that not only kneels at the altar of jungle, but Björk’s Vespertine, with its gorgeous brittle percussion, and a melody that seems to glow and soar, and ‘Outsider’ (featuring Clark) is an intense, epic collaboration, with stuttering beats washing through an echoey ambience, taking us back to a clearing, or perhaps a cleansing after the electrical/electronic storm. This is music that will lift you from whatever ditch you are in, it is both philosophical, and body-shaking.