// by Mia Boddington //
George Evelyn – better known as Nightmares on Wax – has been making music since 1991, with ‘Shape the Future’ being his 8th album.
The distinctive sound of Nightmares on Wax comes from their fusion of genres, combining (to name a few) electronic, rap, soul and on the new album especially, heavy use of samples. This album is ambitious, striving for popularity yet remaining experimental. It also tries to set forward a positive, motivational message, to be positive and love our planet.
The opening track, ‘Back to Nature’, sets out a chilled beat against samples of Kuauhtli Zasquez speaking, and works with the rising electronic backing that is quintessential Nightmares on Wax. One is struck immediately by the wide variety of influences behind the album. It opens on a very positive note, as Zasquez says, “You don’t give trash, you don’t give pollution back to nature, you give love back, you give some of your energetic goodness back to the earth…” Here it works, but at times the album’s relentless positivity can be a bit much, and even seem melodramatic. ‘Tell My Future’ works with a similar tone, but the synth and less dramatic vocals give it a slightly more chilled out vibe.
‘Shape the Future’ itself is slightly underwhelming. Opening on heavy synths and a sample, ‘Thought you had…shaped the future’, it breaks down the rhythm and slowly recreates a slightly jazzy, electronic style fused with the continued sample. It’s nice, but not a standout. ‘Tomorrow’ is to my ears one of the album’s best tracks, striking the perfect balance between downtempo chill while remaining interesting. ‘Typical’ achieves a similar effect, but with its jazzy riff feels almost like it’s trying slightly too hard to be a hit.
‘Citizen Kane’ is probably the biggest track on the album, featuring Mozez rapping on the only true rap song of the record. Whilst it’s not massively original, it works – it’s catchy and has a good chorus. It’s also the album’s definite high point in terms of pace and mass appeal, although the track following it is possibly equally good – ‘Deep Shadows’, featuring Sadie Walker, whose soulful voice perfectly complements the hip-hop beat. The album goes out on a high note, with the funky ‘Gotta Smile’, before the slower, melodic ‘The Othership’ – nothing particularly new, but a nice, chilled out vibe.
Overall, I like the album. It varies well between faster paced rap and electronic and the slower tracks which stop it becoming too ambitious. There are, admittedly, some slightly dud tracks, and none that are truly amazing, but generally the album’s quality comes from its variety. Evelyn manages to create a vibe interesting enough to keep us listening.
Overall Review: 7/10