It is sometimes said that Yamaneko emerged suddenly, seemingly from the ether. This is untrue. Both literally — prior to adopting his current moniker he had released under the pseudonym Talbot Fade — but also figuratively.
Joe Moynihan is a producer whose finely crafted, delicate and often bittersweet beats lovingly evoke the stark contrasts between naivety and harsh futurism at work in the nascent grime sound of this century’s first decade. With his latest album, ‘Project Nautilus’, he sustains this focus, and draws on the disconcerting, contorted bleeps of keygen loops to imbue his rhythms with an echoing digital nostalgia.
This is underscored by the subtle, but gradually enveloping bass of tracks such as ‘Gala Helipop’ and ‘Loading Bay’, submerging his bleak snares and claps beneath a reverberant tide of sound, and creating music that reaches the ear as the distant transmissions of a lost submarine, perhaps the Nautilus itself — a technology that exists in a steampunk world simultaneously primitive and anachronistically advanced.
Indeed, Moynihan’s skill in drawing coherency out of these dichotomies, an ability sorely needed in an increasingly fractured, information-saturated world, is perhaps what makes the album so unrelentingly contemporary, despite its references to a past variously imagined and real. In marrying dissonance with warmth, he has made a body of work which, though touted as difficult, even alienating, is crucial. Undoubtedly, there are challenging aspects here, signalled by the jarring use of audience laughter to interrupt the fragile first minutes of ‘Blemtrails’, but with each listen it embeds itself deeper into the consciousness.
And where there are inconsistencies, the complaints are mostly minor: ‘Pixel Wavedash’ sounds somewhat incomplete, sketch-like in comparison to the more substantial offerings, and the hopped up meth mužik of the second act of ‘Rushing The Ice Palace’ might make it more fittingly placed earlier on in the album, rather than as a follow up to the slinky, creeping iciness of ‘Blitter’ (the pinpoint accuracy of which is a highlight) and before the melancholic soundscape of the closing track, ‘Playing Fields’.
But this is a fascinating, if at times disorienting, piece of music; one that blends and weaves some of the tropes of grime and techno with an approach that borders on Geeneus, and pierces dubstep via the medium of 8-bit loops with the idiosyncrasy of a young Dylan Mills, offering glimpses of a fleeting humanity in an ominous sci-fi void.
Words: Alex McFadyen
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