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Nightjars – Nocturnal review

Vae Victis made quite a splash with their first release, pairing The Analogue Cops with Blawan to spark off some gritty and very ‘of-the-moment’ dancefloor smashers. After that canny signing, their follow-up sees apparent newcomer(s) Nightjars taking the reins but still maintaining the philosophy of analogue processes and hybrid styles. The concept is further crystalised here with two distinct sides to the record; one features tracks run through grainy equipment for that must-have rawness, and the other contains two tracks lovingly perfected in a plush studio.

Starting with the ‘raw’ side, “Thing Movin On” steps and shudders in a sparse fashion, using very little percussion besides a kick and rimshot playing against a looped synth refrain and a purposefully distorted vocal sample. It’s a dreamy broken beat track at heart, and its simplicity makes it alluring, but the militant production method Nightjars have forced upon themselves seems a little forced at the expense of the track. If the elements could be lifted out of the ill-rendered murk they wallow in, the track would be far stronger for it. “Heavy” however fares far better with some nasty processing, as a mean acidic bassline rubs up against razor sharp hats in belting fashion. Once again the simple approach has been employed, with the barest of elements feeding into the kind of rave track that soundtracked many an edgy warehouse back in the day.

After all the dirt of the ‘raw’ side, the more melancholic material in Nightjars’ repertoire has been wisely saved for the ‘clean’ side, starting with the plush finish of “Left People”. The drum patterns maintain the stripped back ethos, but in this instance a gently delayed melody rings out in a never-ending loop of repetition that seems to come from the Terry Riley school of composition. It’s a neat concept, although it does come off a little dull in the lack of variation, possibly due to limitations imposed by the hardware approach.

After that ambiguous exercise, “Everynight” positively shines for its focus and dynamics. While there’s no greater complexity at work in the music, the pace and flow of the track feels far more engaging, not least when the vintage garage-house bassline comes in. The same twirling synths abound, but everything sits more comfortably in the mix, making for a nostalgic treat of broken goodness. While the determination in their studio practice is admirable, at times Nightjars seem to have limited themselves before they really know how to get the most out of the analogue way. However when the ideas and the processes intertwine more happily, the results make for some very worthy tracks.

Oli Warwick