Outputmessage is not one of the most captivating pseudonyms thrown at me in the last few months but is nevertheless the misnomer that 22 year old Virginian, Bernard Emmanuel Farley (I probably wouldn’t use his real name either) rolls with when delivering his mix of house, techno and general electronica. Nebulae is Farley’s debut album and seeks, in his own words, to focus upon melody whilst blending film-sound track inflected scores. Not great news for those of loose mouthed variety of techno stompers, but for myself with techno and house being neither really my cup of tea nor my kettle of fish I wondered whether this record would indeed see me drinking the proverbial herbal whilst smoking the mackerel.
A quick look at the track-list and there is an inclination from the semantics of the track titles — “Metal”, “Snow”, “Glintz”, “Sommeil” etc that the record is in fact going to be closer to experimental electronica. This suspicion is confirmed immediately from the ambient shimmer of intro track “Metal” that does however give way to shakey beats and furry base of “Glintz”. “Glintz” turns out to be one of the few dance-floor movers of the album and mixes retro-sounding house synths with a more modern live-sounding breaks/light drum n bass. The two genres are smoothly sequenced together but as a hybrid, “Glintz” lacks the punch of real dnb and equally the blissed out circular rhythms of house. Next track “Sommeil” continues the boogie moving towards a more progressive house sound. Trading on various bleeps and spacey sounds there is not a lot new here, and this becomes a mal-function of Nebulae later on with its failure to really push for edges or to sufficiently drown our minds.
“Glintz” turns out to be one of the few dance-floor movers of the album and mixes retro-sounding house synths with a more modern live-sounding breaks/light drum n bass.
With this in mind, maybe it is unsurprising that standout track is called “Nouvelle Forme”. Peeling off the nouvelle vague of other tracks such as “Sommeil”, Farley introduces a fresh tinny sounding glitch filled beat that scrapes away at a slow warbling synth in the background. This is soon coupled with a sort of speedy musique-concrete style guitar riff before moving into grainy waters of stunted beats and plaintive synths. With the base slightly higher in the mix this would go some way to being a banger but even without that the track manages to stand up nicely. Nebulae’s other significant track to mix it up is “Gleam.” The track is dressed around a brooding bass riff highly similar to Radiohead’s “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box” which is shadowed by trippy synths that are one again inter-cut with breaks style beats. Despite the Timbaland-esque dressing, the track still sounds undercut leaving it in a middle-ground between the dancefloor and the lounge which I guess leaves the toilets.
For a debut album Nebulae manages to avoid serious clangers but equally you get a sense that Farley is still building his beats and gaining a grasp of controls— a lot of the tracks here are literally only dipping their toes in. Similarly, with 3 out of the 10 tracks clocking in under 2 minutes, albeit serving as musical ennuis/bookends, there will be people that feel the album’s a little light. Just a growing phase?