Nosaj Thing: Fated

The innovative, woozy yet meticulous Callie beats man serves up an album that's not in the slightest bit self-indulgent. Maybe you should ease up on yourself, bro.

- Nosaj Thing’s new record consists of the kind of scrupulously assembled electronic music that can’t, and won’t, be dismissed simply as more of the routinely chunky beatwork that so many EDM producers seem content to churn out these days. This would come as no real surprise to anyone familiar with his particular brand of woozy, meticulous production, but I point it out because on first listen to Fated, you’re at least able to gauge his sustained interest in keeping it well and truly real. It’s not hard to be struck by his glowing, naturalistic talent as you make your way through the record; there’s a distinct, inescapable feeling that the guy knows what he’s doing. Only thing is: it’s a bit too difficult to put up with how the cold, deliberate darkness that usually just shrouds his music, here totally consumes it.

Now on almost any day of the week, I am a shameless, unfailing advocate of moodiness in music. But I’m more into the idea of nodding my head in bitter, smirking resonance with my choice of sonically conveyed sorrow and bad attitude than feeling totally weighed down and suffocated by it all. Nosaj’s last effort, 2013’s Home, didn’t do that at all. It was consistent, thorough, and at times, plainly stunning. In comparison, but also very much on its own, the follow-up has very little to grab onto, and a pronounced lack of thematic context that would otherwise allow the bleakness to make a bit more sense.

Almost every song passes by in just over, or well below, two minutes. This might give it the sort of “hey look, I’m not self-indulgent” charm of some kind of beat tape, but like, it’s 2015, and things are all back-to-front now. People actually really dig self-indulgent artists. It could come from somewhere quite legitimate, but in suppressing his self-indulgence, Nosaj has seemingly disallowed a lot of these tracks sufficient time to build, flow, or in some cases, even find their footing. Take Realize for example. It’s got a lovely, tight, faintly haunting little premise, and as some shuffling syncopated robot vocals gradually smooth themselves into the groove, you start sort of feeling as though something truly sick should be happening very soon. But nothing does. It just fades on out.

Equally disappointingly, the lead single Cold Stares’ best elements are countered by the fact that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as a song. Chance The Rapper’s verse about a dying junkie doesn’t evoke the Requiem For A Dream-level strife that it’s meant to, mostly because he, for some ungodly reason, namedrops Gollum. Like most of the songs on here, it feels as though it could have done with much more fleshing out. We’re thereby left with an album comprised mostly by sketches.

I don’t want to seem like some kind of pleb with my headphones turned up too loud bellowing, “where are the SINGLES?” from ten metres below the earth in a cave made from various Best Of CD cases, but the real, accessible high points on this record are few and far between. Too often, I found myself thinking: that’s a really cool sound, but now it’s over, and it’s not coming back. Of course, you can still feel Nosaj Thing’s enigmatic signature all over it, and you can’t deny his talent – this is a guy who recently got his most essential gear stolen, and who then proceeded to take it in his stride and still play what by all accounts was a fiercely shit-hot set not twenty-four hours later. But it feels like some kind of message is constantly yearning to expose itself from underneath all the layers of meticulous, sometimes gorgeous artificiality on display here. If only that message were more apparent and obtainable, and didn’t always vanish as soon as I felt like I was just getting close enough to figuring it out.

- Joe Saxby.

Album Details

Album Title: Fated
Artist: Nosaj Thing
Record Label: (Innovative Leisure / Inertia)