What’s odd about the new Nightmares on Wax album is that even as I think about trying to describe it, on paper it is so much of what I should despise. I mean, Now Is The Time is what I might think of as reggae-inflected big beat, Give Thx is the kind of masquerading-as-soul soft, slightly wet sub Stevie Wonder/Bill Withers crowd-chant-along thing that Trinity Roots were best/worst at and even the hark back to the mid-90s trip-hop of Be, I Do and Master Plan get the big tick from me. (And they probably shouldn’t).
I like it.
I like all of it.
The opener, So Here We Are, has a majestic sweep of very cinematic-sounding strings that cling never too close to the tune as it rolls and bops. And, once again (as always) you can as much feel that Mr Nightmares (aka George Evelyn) has tunnelled into the middle of songs to start them as they’re already happening rather than constructing any beginning/middle/end. Arguably he just makes long, rolling middles. But they’re danceable and you can sit back and sup at them, you can nod-along and ponder or be moved to, well, move. There’s the sound that Sola Rosa has been chasing forever on Eye (Can’t See); in fact that’s as good as anything Fat Freddy’s would ever do – and far better. Because it moves. And just as Evelyn picks the perfect place to tunnel in he also knows when and how to get out. The tunes stay in your head, you hum the extra parts, your top keeps tapping, your fingers are still counting it out on the tabletop. There’s something memorable in the soundscapes he makes.
Since then it’s often been pear-shaped for Evelyn, albums starting out strong but drifting off – as is their wont of course. But only ever making it towards waft. Never returning with anything to show from the journey.
This is an album, like those early peaks, that offers more than just one or two great tracks. It will reward constant listens, it will introduce new favourites each time (Tapestry, There 4u) and the closer, Om Sweet H(Om)e offers the perfect wind-down. The album feels signed off, completed. A bunch of ideas that could have come from anywhere – time-wise, that never feel complete in and of themselves, but it has a definite flow as an album.
He’s still making music for the delight of smokers. Sure. But the rest of us can climb on board and take a puff too – without feeling like it’s any kind of confirmed lifestyle soundtrack, any statement about hobbies and habits. It also transcends trends – I mean by all rights this should sound dated and lost but it’s achieving – I think – a feeling not just of retro-cool but of seamlessness/near-timelessness; George Evelyn’s just tunnelled back to the middle of his career. And it’s all sounding super-fresh and cool. Familiar. And wisely so. A quiet kind of enchantment.
I like all of it.
I like it.