Of all of Warp Records’ veteran acts, it’s Nightmares On Wax who seem to spark the least popular acclaim, their smoky, slo-mo grooves inspiring neither the rabid fanboy enthusiasm of Aphex Twin or the more cerebral respect of Sheffield number-crunchers Autechre. That’s not to say, though, that there’s not much to recommend the latest instalment from Leeds native George Evelyn’s long-running downtempo project.
Much has changed in chill-out since Evelyn dropped what’s come to be considered his masterpiece, 1995’s aptly titled Smoker’s Delight, the genre expanding out into a catch-all term that encompasses everything from Balearic dance to sleepy folktronica. And Nightmares On Wax have changed too, although you’re left with the feeling that Evelyn is exploring his own internal rhythm rather than marching to the beat of another’s drum.
Mostly written on the road as he made his way from Leeds to his new home in Ibiza, Thought So strips chill-out right down to the basics, a blissful, unhurried coast of clacking hip-hop breaks, sparse guitar and shimmering synthesiser grounded in Evelyn’s main musical passions, vintage soul, jazz, and the late-night boom of the dub soundsystem. A handful of guest vocalists – Ricky Ranking, Chyna Brown and Ella May – add colour, if not any real narrative. And while there is a distant echo of Nightmares On Wax’s early bleep beginnings in Be There, you leave feeling that Evelyn is more than satisfied with his current pace of life: slow, steady, stoned. That popular acclaim will surely continue to elude Nightmares On Wax, then, but in a genre of cynical, blanded-out mood muzak, Thought So still feels like a treat, generously packed and tightly rolled, a treat for the discerning.