Nathan Fake | Steam Days

Border Community (2012)
By RYAN REED  |  August 21, 2012
2.0 2.0 Stars


Even though it's difficult to feel a human pulse on his third studio album, Steam Days, Nathan Fake's brand of laptop-tronica remains uniquely organic. On "Paean," the disc's opening wash of sound, Fake crafts a blissfully fractured electro-lounge synth groove over percussion that sounds like rattling pocket change and the shaking of spray-paint cans. And unlike many of his beat-heavy peers, Fake knows the importance of melody. Even when the soundscapes crawl along without much sense of purpose, there's usually a half-melted hook bubbling under the surface: "Old Light" sports a nifty synth-bass and lively, glitchy rhythms, but its heartbeat is a glistening synth line chopped straight from the soundtrack of a lost Nintendo classic. With its stutter-stepping beats and hazy, winding keys, "Cascade Airways" sounds like a dubstep outtake from J-Dilla's Donuts, hold the sprinkles. Ultimately, Steam Days could have used a lot more Dilla-esque economy: at 50 minutes, it drags exponentially more the longer it plays; "Rue," a sub Sigur Rós, is a slo-mo doodle interlude stretched out to a painfully long four minutes; and closer "Warble Epics" calls to mind an 8-bit version of Radiohead's "2+2=5" minus catharsis. Steam Days is usually pretty, but it's also a snooze.

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