Upon downloading the preview of this album, I was presented with 20 tracks, album artwork, and a to-the-point press release from Danny, the Hackney based producer behind Altered Natives. The Natives back catalogue is impressive, with 8 LPs and numerous singles and remixes on on EYE4EYE, Bosconi, 3024, Hoya, Fresh Minute Music, COOPr8, Hyperdub and the revered !K7 to name a few.
It’s often the case that music reflects the life of the artist. I’m not sure what Danny has been through in the past couple of years, but this music as as powerful and deep as it gets, and the fact there are 20 tracks means something weighty is behind it all. This isn’t going to be an exhaustive review of 20 tracks, but my impressions of the overall feel and some personal highlights.
‘This album is a conversion of everything shitty that’s happened in my life over the past two years.’
From the unnerving opening of leading track ‘By The Way I Loved You’ the musicality is apparent. Swirling synths expertly arranged and fronted by strong notes with more then a hint of strings, this is at once a classic sound. The percussion is beefy, punching drums and chugging bass, and as some frankly terrifying ravey stabs slice through it, the track has changed character three times in as many minutes. It’s a stellar opening.
‘Musicality is “sensitivity to, knowledge of, or talent for music” or “the quality or state of being musical”, and is used to refer to specific if vaguely defined qualities in pieces and/or genres of music, such as melodiousness and harmoniousness.’
‘Get Real’ is a repository of broken beats, ruined basslines and vocal samples where you may fear to tread – ‘If you do not know the present how can you claim to know the future?’. The influences beyond techno and straight 4/4 are clear here. ‘Hausismein’ takes us straight to Detroit with its preacher sample and lush strings over grooving beeps, and then drops straight into an absolute beast of a bassline, providing the backbone of a peak-time funked up workout.
‘Acid Black’ is a highlight for me, pure immersive dubstep with beautiful restraint on the acid baseline, and perfect use of vocal hits and percussion. Wicked kicks too. And a special mention goes to the rudeboy sensibilities of ‘Gravity’, I wasn’t expecting that one!
Almost two hours later and the listener has been on a significant journey into the mind of Altered Natives. The album is incredibly varied, there’s plenty of toughness and power, but the musicianship is clear in all twenty tunes. There is contemplation (the woozy electric piano towards the end of ‘Hausismein’), aggression (the battering drums and synthesised fury on ‘Black Hermione’) and depth (the glitchy funk of ‘Never Forget’). The scope is amazing and will leave the listener enthralled, as well as providing numerous dance floor bombs ready for deployment. This is the first time I’ve heard Altered Natives work but it assuredly won’t be the last.
‘The Black Album’ by Altered Natives will be released on 31.10.2017 on EYE4EYE Recordings. Grab it while it’s hot.
Reviewed by Stringer