Drowning in a Sea of Love
t almost sounds like a dream: A teenaged Nathan Fake sent in a demo to his favorite producer and label owner, James Holden. After hearing it, Holden immediately offered Fake the chance to put out a 12” on his Border Community imprint. That release was then followed up by another single, “The Sky Was Pink,” which has since become an epochal recording to dance fans and DJs across the world. All of a sudden, you have Michael Mayer remixing your track (“Coheed”) and Superpitcher licensing another for his Today mix (“Dinamo”). And now a full-length for the label that you got you here.
Keeping in mind the fact that the Holden remix of “The Sky Was Pink” was in fact a remix, and that the original was an even more progressive, pastoral landscape, Drowning in a Sea of Love should hardly come as a shock. But the fact that it isn’t techno proper, or even tech-house for that matter, has people wondering where these slowed-down versions of Brahm’s Lullaby set to a Casio beat … except for those doe-eyed swells at tear-jerking altitudes…has come from.
There’s an understandable mistake of making an M83 comparison when talking about Drowning in a Sea of Love, but Fake has more tricks than just programmed drum rolls and a choir patch on his favorite synth. Perhaps Slowdive’s infamous Pygmalion session demos provide a better sense of the general composition; it breaks and flows like a fractured fairytale.
“Bawsey”’s lazy synths, for example, that run to and fro could just as easily be Neil Halstead plucking a single chord, barely backed by a bassline. Just over thirty seconds into this one minute track, Fake begins toying with a master pitch control, effacing the recording. Effectively, he reminds the listener of the human touch behind the controls in an age where genres and software seem to write themselves; he fights the good fight in an age of process fetishism by pushing the human element, the imperfect, to the forefront.
In other words, there is this idea that there is a way to do things, and the beginning, middle, and end should be just so. By going against this, and due to the brevity of this construction, “Bawsey” is exemplary of this album: a techno producer makes a gorgeous mosaic of an album that is fundamentally opposed to dance floors, and, by avoiding producing a series of predictable would-be 12”’s, Fake asserts himself as an artist and songwriter rather than merely a cog in the techno machine.
With a bass sound that would make Pretty Toney pretty proud, the album begins with “Stops.” Chimes and deep breaths compose a great deal of the background, making explicit the shoegaze and sex motifs. Fortunately for the listener, the album offers more than a one night stand.
The next track, “Grandfathered,” starts with a choppy and shimmering chord on something that sounds like a distorted organ. The harmonies and the melodies here and elsewhere are almost twee at times, and they aren’t completely original. Although, where other artists may dig too deeply into cliché, Fake does it in a way that makes even the lesser pieces and transitions rather endearing.
“Charlie’s House” follows and like most of the album, it meanders back and forth between the road and a nature walk. Led by a straight forward flute sound and a daydream synth line, the song seems content to ho-hum along with handclaps and stereo swirls—albeit one of the most satisfying ho-hum’s yet recorded. Later, “Long Sunny”’s ping-pong intro percussion, over-processed arena-sized synthesizers, and messy climax seem particularly well-suited to a Holden reworking.
Taking advantage of the full-length format to explore a sound anathema to dancefloor oriented 12”’s, Drowning in a Sea of Love is both a surprise and one of the most satisfying records released so far this year.
Reviewed by: Cameron Octigan
Reviewed on: 2006-03-23