Nathan Fake: Hard Islands

Fake's sophomore album of progressive techno hits hard and tweaks until all who stand in its wake are titillated to the gooey brink of orgasm and beyond.

Nathan Fake

Hard Islands

Label: Border Community
US Release Date: 2009-05-18
UK Release Date: 2009-05-18
Internet release date: 2009-05-18

A lot can change in three years, a fact made evident by former Norfolk bedroom producer Nathan Fake's sophomore album. In 2003, the then-19-year-old Fake (his real name) caught the attention of circuit bender James Holden, who promptly released his debut "Outhouse" single as the second ever release on his trendsetting Border Community label. Three years later, Fake had gone from obscurity to having the likes of Michael Mayer and Apparat remixing his tunes, while his 2006 full-length debut record Drowning in a Sea of Love released to widespread critic praise (including an 8.4 from Pitchfork, no less).

His first few singles and EPs stuck quite dedicatedly to the progressive house genre, with the exception of a track or two, but his debut surprisingly contained pure shoegaze post-rocktronica with nods to Boards of Canada and M83. Fake did not play out live at the time, and the album reflected this. It was a complete home listening experience, amply rewarding repeat listenings in a chill environment. The emphasis was on the brain, not the feet.

Another three years later, bringing us up to 2009, things appear to have come full circle. Fake left the bedroom at some point and launched himself a successful deejay career. In turn, this has greatly influenced the sound of his second album (or first mini-album, depending on how you look at it) on Holden's label, Hard Islands. The gauzy synths, digitally mauled guitars, and downtempo rhythms that defined Drowning have been pushed aside in lieu of dance floor-tested tweaks on steady 4/4 beats that explore the limitless possibilities of Ableton.

The bass kicks like a bull and pulses throughout the festivities, while Fake deftly applies all the twists and turns his otherwise simple synth melodies will support. Hard Islands is an album based more in obscured rhythmic non-variation, cheeky slights of hand that make the basic song structures appear to venture further than they actually do. Believe me, that is a lot harder to pull off than it sounds.

"Basic Mountain" exemplifies the technique. The track begins and continues on a four-note lead melody, fading out only in the final minute, and once the beat kicks in, it pretty much stays the course for the duration. Variation is delivered by the swapping of percussive loops, filter alterations on the lead, and the subtle addition of synth sounds that support the main melody. Yet, for something so simple, it sounds a lot shorter than its six-minute running time suggests.

"Castle Rising" is the record's centerpiece. Stretching out to the nine-minute mark, it is similarly built from a steady, pounding 4/4 beat and a basic, albeit heavily layered melody, but Fake never stops bending everything at his fingertips. There is method in his madness, though, unlike the barrage of uncontrolled and unoriginal noise that is Girl Talk. When Fake glitches "Castle Rising", it performs an essential task, executed with a uncanny precision to keep the tune fresh and the groove groovy.

Where Drowning in a Sea of Love evoked a peaceful drowning, Hard Islands does not evoke. It hits hard, tweaking until all who stand in its wake are titillated to the gooey brink of orgasm and beyond. It ain't the kind of fluffy, funky, bouncy disco wank that has fueled the Ibiza economy for 20 years, nor is it the faux chug, ironic darkness that Deadmau5 and the like pimp over at the Ministry of Sound. Hard Islands is the nasty business that grabs a hold of your short and curlies and never lets go until your rocks are off. From the looks of it, three years from now, Nathan Fake will be melting peoples' skulls from a space station.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.