Ninja Tune – 23rd February

Recorded in one take, Nathan Fake’s latest output on Ninja Tune is rich with analogue crackles and the gentle buzz of the recording studio. Sunder is a four track (five with a digital purchase) EP that was created using an old Marantz tape deck, Roland Jupiter-6, an AKAI drum machine and the Yamaha Reface DX. By allowing for mistakes and imperfections – listen for the clashing notes in ‘Serotonin Drops’, a deliberate discordance? Or just a slip of the finger? – Nathan Fake has embraced the messy energy of the recording, adding a personal touch to a record that is simultaneously industrial and deeply emotive.

Sunder is Nathan’s first release since signing to Ninja Tune and hence releasing his fourth full length Providence in 2016. Sunder, coarser and more drum-focused than its predecessor, inhabits a different space musically, whilst retaining that sentimentality that Nathan Fake is known for.

As the title track opens, the space of the live recording fizzes like gentle white noise. Thumping drums drive the melody of the synths, a muffled organ-like sound that meanders slowly in the background. Echoing bleeps crash from one ear to the other as Nathan methodically adds layers, bringing the synth to the foreground before pushing it away again.

With the exception of the digital-only closing track ‘Lea’, each track on Sunder sits at around six to seven minutes, a dance record in format if not always in its cinematic undulations. ‘Arcaibh’ begins as juddering techno, drums crashing in the distance. Warm chord progressions rise and fall behind the percussion. Adept at changing our focus, again here Nathan Fake transforms a muted melody into big, attention grabbing synths.

Simple progressions and melodies are key in Nathan’s manipulation of the tone throughout Sunder. ‘Serotonin Drops’ opens with a whirring synth, menacing in its two notes. Warmer high notes start to creep in as the atmosphere builds. Methodical and slow-moving synths are rushed ahead by a thudding low-fi beat and cymbals that feel deliberately out of sync, adding tension to a filmic, sci-fi build up.

Closing track ‘Cloudswept’ – the brightest and most percussive track on the record – feels almost sacred in its rich cacophony of organ-like synths. As otherworldly bleeps dart around you in surround sound, there’s a hair-raising satisfaction to be found in the dissonance of the chords. As the record comes to a close, I can feel the controls being twisted and turned in the studio as the final notes surge up, down, left and right until they fade out altogether. Sunder demonstrates Nathan Fake’s practiced and perfected ability to construct and dismantle textures and moods without ever losing momentum.

Buy: Nathan Fake – Sunder