sun 05/12/2021

Album: Nightmares On Wax - Shout Out! To Freedom | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Nightmares On Wax - Shout Out! To Freedom...

Album: Nightmares On Wax - Shout Out! To Freedom...

Leeds via Ibiza's space-soul master heads skwyards

George Evelyn is one of British music’s more interesting characters. With equal parts Yorkshire bluntness, hip hop swagger and cosmic dreams, he has filled Nightmares On Wax’s beat collages and soul grooves with soundsystem heft and endless inventiveness for over three decades now. Ever since the N.O.W.

sound really hit its stride on the second album, 1995’s Smoker’s Delight, it’s been like a slow, deep river meandering through the musical landscape: sometimes livelier, sometimes stagnating a little, but always making its own way with no need to change or divert for anything. 

On this, the ninth N.O.W. album, all the key elements are here. There’s 70s psychedelic soul string arrangements and Robin Taylor Firth’s liquid piano playing on the gorgeous single “Imagineering”. There are tracks that delight in the pure joy of chopping and filtering a funk sample – “Miami80” and “Widyabad” being the purest exercises here. There are soul vocals that are delicate in their delivery but militant in intent and content: Brooklyn’s Haile Supreme in particular blessing a number of the tunes with such assurance that you’ll be convinced he is indeed, as claimed, a “conduit of ancient vocal techniques” and “shamanic showman”. 

Even better, these elements frequently interweave to make deceptively lush and complex textures. Maybe it’s to do with being untethered from the demands of club and festival soundsystems in lockdown, but other than the hefty roots of “Breathe In” there’s less house and reggae solidity here than on the album’s predecessor, Shape the Future – though there is a bit of old-fashioned rocksteady on “Creator SOS” and “Wikid Satellites”, and of course plenty of dub echo all over. Rather, there’s a flying-dream weightlessness and airiness to a lot of it, a looseness to the arrangements that sometimes hints towards Don Cherry in his most utopian early 70s mode. 

This complexity is at its most radiant on the sublime “3D Warrior” and “Wonder” when Shabaka Hutchings’s reeds wrap like ribbons in a breeze around the vocalists’ tones. We could maybe have maybe done without Greentea Peng going all the way into water-fluoridation conspiracy tirades on “Wikid Satellites” – it’s a bit like being cornered at a party just when you’re really starting to enjoy yourself, and you may start to irritably wonder whether her anti-science stance extends to all genetic engineering and hydroponic farming. But that’s a minor blip in an otherwise extraordinary album, which gives up more and more wonders with every repeat playing.

@joemuggs

Hear "Breathe In":

There’s a flying-dream weightlessness and airiness to a lot of it

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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