Monday, May 11, 2015

Nosaj Thing - Fated Review

What set Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey apart from any like-minded Sci-Fi space flick was its perpetual silence, a facet of filmmaking that not only reveled in validity but further established the dread of the events circulating the film. It put an organic spin on a genre which had the Universe to explore despite profiting off the same rituals. Sonically speaking L.A. beatsmith Nosaj Thing's latest LP, Fated, attempts to mare these oppositions, taking direct influence from the dense electric vibrations from movies like Tron, whilst whittling it down to its bare essentials leaving a vaporous vacuum of hollow parts, like 2001. What results is an entrancing piece of music that teleports listeners to the center of the Universe, where through the magic of the cosmos the sparse sounds of ambient, electronic glitch-hop exist but only in sporadic spades. His previous efforts, Drift and Home, partook in this dank, eery affair but to a lesser consistency than Fated offers. A soon-to-be master of space, Nosaj Thing's latest fails to use silence as a crutch, but more a piece of instrumental fabric that helps mold his electronic palate, condensing sounds to the dark matter they are, effectively allowing the mind to wander given the right atmosphere.

Apart from his work with Busdriver ('Split Seconds') and Kendrick Lamar ('Cloud 10'), both of which I unknowingly heard without seeing his production credits, the first time I pursued Nosaj Thing was after hearing his enthralling sounds on Chance The Rapper's 'Pusha Man,' my favorite track of 2013. On Fated's mostly quiet affair there stands 'Cold Stares,' a track dominated by the Chicago emcee that works as the lyrical backbone to the albums general consensus. It works in much the same way, albeit with less of a punch, to Flying Lotus' 'Never Catch Me.' In it Chance details a heroin user's final moments reconciling his life on a hospital bed, using a poorly punctuated flow that drills in the dreary nature of the topic. Intersected between his moments of clarity and Nosaj Thing's ping-pong in slo-mo beat are these subtle coo's of a female variety, adding a touch of innocence and sincerity to a succumbing life. Nosaj Thing's minimalist tendencies cause moments like these, typically overlooked in denser settings, to dart out like a gleaming beacon. Fated features a handful of these moments, like 'Light #5's' drowning use of a voice losing breath as its foundation, or 'Sci's' malfunctioning robot thundering to a halt as wind chimes breath candidly behind it.

Apart from Chance's presence and the vocal chops manifesting around every bend, breathing disjointed life into the project, the only other voice here is on 'Don't Mind Me' with Whoarei. It's a darling of a track, where the production bends and shapes the vocal which fall into place like puzzle pieces where the effectual fabric scratches with every whimper. As for beats, Nosaj's knack for the superfluous means his stretch may be minimal but its overall impact is felt. A trip down a city street at 2 a.m. with some of Fated's haunting beats wavering through your ears sensationalizes the feelings of drifting away from your current solid state, with tracks like 'Medic' and 'A' mimicking the alarming collapse of mankind with pristine beauty only calculated computer programs can capture. 'Varius' stands are the album's stingiest beat though, perfectly melding Flying Lotus' earlier work with a stripped down Hudson Mohawke where before you've decided if it should be quietly hummed or blared through speakers the track abruptly ends. While characteristic of a producer album, short songs actually hinder progress in Fated's case, as a majority of beats here feel as though they're just starting to flaunt their wings before their snipped off.

While diversity is always appreciated in a producer's diet one can't get off the ground without a trademarked sound many can latch their name onto, Nosaj Thing being a prime example of this. Upon first listen it's clear who made these beats, and while that suits him contently in the short-term they'll be hurdles down the road when the allure wears off. Apart from certain atmospheric conditions where this album deserves to take center-stage, Fated, with little intriguing replay value, may be relegated to quiet ambient study music, a beat tape offering no glimpse of ambition, straying far from Flying Lotus' You're Dead and its all-commending presence. The middling third of the album, following 'Cold Stares,' is a comparatively dull stretch that doesn't add anything remarkable, just a continuation of lucious, glitch-infested, stress-relieving beats that can easily fade into the subconscious. Nothing here is bad mind you, but some, like 'Uv3' and 'Moon,' become overshadowed with their lack of commandeering sounds. For every snafu though there's a gem, the tracks mentioned throughout this review help combat some of the more forgettable ones with ease. After all, it is a beat tape, take what you choose.

Fated continues Nosaj Thing's slow but persistent rise, at this point though he's in desperate need of a breakthrough, both in terms of fan support and overall album quality. His merits blend nicely within the confines of either Hip-Hop or Electronic while resisting labeling from either, which could hurt his status overall as neither genre aims to snatch him up. Work like Fated can't go unnoticed though, the resilience in creating a sonic world apart from our own, where hollowed pulses flicker in and out of existence, requires a trained ear to combat overloading the senses. In retrospect many foundations here share a strong resemblance to Thom Yorke's latest solo project; building up the impending doom not with alarming bells and whistles, but with quiet, unobtrusive fluctuations in the silent fabric of space. Nosaj Thing has a knack for this balance, his haunting vocal samples and wired electric palate aim to elevate like Tron but the reality of the universal truths resist it like 2001. He has the sound, the tools, the mind to slither into minds, now all he needs is a poignant, cohesive work to patch it all together. 

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