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Published: 2018/03/16
by Ron Hart

Nightmares On Wax
Shape the Future

This year marks the 30th anniversary of when George Evelyn of Leeds, England was reborn as Nightmares On Wax, perhaps the most consistent instrumental hip-hop act the world has ever known. And for the entire span of that time in the public eye, Evelyn has been faithful to Warp Records. It’s been said before but it bears repeating that while the renowned London electronic label is known more for brainy IDM than smoked-out beats, Nightmares On Wax has been the bedrock for the imprint. Now six years removed from his 2013 LP Feelin’ Good, Evelyn is back in the saddle as Warp’s true flagship artist with one of the best albums of his career. Shape The Future is unlike anything else in the Nightmares on Wax canon, working off the implementation of vocal tracks and fuller arrangements of Feelin’ Good to reveal perhaps the most fully realized vision of the Nightmares on Wax sound we’ve enjoyed to wit. There’s a sense of maturity in this material that prominently moves Evelyn’s aesthetic from chill workspace background music into the center of the mind’s eye with uplifting contributions from Kuauhtli Vasquez, Spiritual Chief of the Teokalli Quetzalcoatl Native American Church on the seven-and-a-half-minute album opener “Back to Nature”, vocalist Jordan Rakei on “Atypical” and “Citizen Kane”, the original of which is already blessed with the early Seal-esque delivery of singer Mozez, but enhanced on the bonus “rap version” remix featuring Winnepeg-based MC Allan Kingdom. The album’s quietest moment, meanwhile, comes in the form of the somber, psychedelic instrumental “Tenor Fly” gets its name from a British MC who passed away in 2016. But perhaps the most surprising and satisfying aspect of Shape the Future is Evelyn’s own vocal revelation on the wobbly title cut, presented with such a hazy warmth you actually wish he laid down tracks on instrumentals like “On It Maestro” and “The Other Ship”. With this excellent new LP, Nightmares On Wax proves exactly why, after all is said and done, it remains the brand on which Warp Records can always hang its hat

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