Release Date: Sep 17, 2013
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Downtempo, Club/Dance
It's fair to say that George Evelyn has earned the right to be feelin' good. After helping define the early days of Warp with his experimental bleep techno, the one constant member of Nightmares On Wax soon grew jaded by the hard-edged beats that defined the late '80s electronic zeitgeist and went off in search of something else. Now, 22 years, six full-lengths and countless Sunday smoking sessions later, it's fair to say he found that something else and truly made it his own.
Skanking back into the limelight with his first LP in five years comes Warp Records' longest standing minion, Nightmares on Wax (aka George Evelyn), a man that brings the fire to the melting pot. As always, Evelyn has managed to effortlessly blend the multicultural elements of every groove-based genre under the sun. Mainstays jazz, funk, soul, reggae, and hip-hop all make an appearance, as well as some poignant orchestral strings, courtesy of Jazzanova's Sebastian Studnitsky.
Although the trip-hop genre of the mid-1990s was perceived as predominantly Bristol-based due to the high profile of Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead, similar acts were also emerging elsewhere in the UK during the same period. Leeds resident George Evelyn, better known as Nightmares On Wax, was one such musician and in its own way, his 1995 album Smokers Delight, with its addictive, sun dappled blend of electro, soul and hip hop, was every bit as representative of its time as Dummy or Maxinquaye. Evelyn’s output over the years since has been fitful, with 1999’s Carboot Soul continuing where Smokers Delight left off before a series of underwhelming records during the following decade left little impression other than with a devoted handful of long term acolytes.
The first Nightmares on Wax album in five years is George Evelyn's most organic and band-oriented release. Beside longtime collaborator Robin Taylor-Firth, Evelyn is joined by a roster of seasoned studio veterans: drummer Wolfgang Haffner, bassist Paul Powell, percussionist Andrew "Shovell" Lovell, vocalist Mozez, and string arranger Sebastian Studnitzky. It's not as if the album were recorded with a strictly old-school method, however; a fair portion of the elements sound producer-driven, heavily manipulated.
Warp Records veteran Nightmares on Wax (aka George Evelyn) makes some very polite funk these days. His new album, Feelin' Good, is perfect for drinking a nice glass of warm milk to before curling up on the couch to read a gardening book but would be pretty hazardous to listen to while operating heavy machinery. There are moments when things threaten to break a sweat, like the percolating reggae disco of Now Is The Time, but ultimately those moments fail to live up to any initial promise.
After Pretty Lights fashioned Nightmare on Wax’s catchy funk exploration “You Wish” into a remixed exclamation of feeling good, producer George Evelyn gained inspiration to spread a similar positivity under his turntables, resulting in his first album in five years, Feelin Good. While positivity is an accessible escape within music, his comeback surfaces nothing new, accumulating few tracks that stand out and many an overkill. Whenever Evelyn sticks to his guns with down-tempo trip-hip, on the other hand, his tracks leave a memorable mark.
The best parties all have soundtracks and invariably, at some point, the frivolities will feature a band who play something so chilled out and achingly soulful that you might well struggle to identify them. Ask enough times what that band is and there’s a good chance you’ll discover it to be Nightmares On Wax. Since the early 90s, NOW project mastermind George Evelyn has been taking his band on the road and steadily feeding us album after album of solid downtempo gold.
From way back in the ‘88 bleep techno days when it was a duo, to the thick hip hop of his last offering Thought So..., George Evelyn’s music as Nightmares On Wax has always had a brightness to it. But in Feelin Good, his latest album for Warp, this has become something of a dichotomy. Evelyn has lived in Ibiza for the last seven years, running a successful night at the island’s oldest club and releasing records when he wishes.