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Nina Buchanan - Restless Abandon (Heavy Machinery Records, 2021)

On her latest release, Nina Buchanan continues to serve up her perfected blend of sonic wizardry, as we arrive and leave the experience in a whirlwind of ecstatic melodies, hypnotic rhythms and a series of atmospheres that encourage you to simply let it all go.

Electronic music, when pushed in all the right directions, can have that all encompassing effect, as if the listener is being dipped into a bubble which remains all around them until the needle comes up, and this is often down to the producer's sense of dynamism and scale of vision. In the contemporary era, those who make the biggest splashes are often those who spread their sound far and wide, taking into account the many flows and interfaces that have existed before as a basis for their own formulas, and this approach only means that the journey they set out for themselves develops into something very intriguing indeed. Its as if invisible parameters have been set which provide a sense of presence, with the music being played out allowing us to focus on numerous spaces and connections within that world, providing us with a network of emotions and styles to sink our teeth into. We become enticed by the things that sound familiar but also the elements which seem new and exciting, and we remain enticed for the long run as we get the feeling that things might switch up significantly on the next release. Maintaining the edge of the seat notion is a tricky task, but when this approach is pursued there's no telling just how far the music is willing to go, and we are simply swept along for the ride. Electronic music has this approach running through its blood, a mystifying web of genres and styles that can be pulled together, broken down and combined once again in a myriad of ways and with an endless list of methods, and certainly within the past few years we have seen producers pull themselves up into new and exciting spaces. This is what makes the sound encompassing, believable and thought provoking, a sound based on numerous contexts and spaces which is then channelled through into a mindset that seems hell bent on crafting the most compelling and intriguing music going. We cling on with our fingernails as the music soars into the heavens, allowing ourselves to be immersed into a sphere where anything feels possible, where the next track could sound oh so different from the previous and yet so interconnected with its audial siblings, and as an atmosphere everything feels like it is moving onwards and outwards. Standing still can be a little bit, well, unengaging, but when things feel like the next corner has an enormity of differentials swinging around it, then our eyes light up with anticipation, eagerly awaiting the sonics that are going to swing our way. And that is a very powerful feeling indeed.

All these kinds of vibrations and more can be found within the whirlwind like brilliance that persists within Nina Buchanan's work, which for some time now has been wowing audiences the world over with its perpetually ever shifting form and tone. Buchanan's work remains rooted in the portrayal of intriguing melodies, which have been key features of the majority of her productions, along with a hefty amount of emphasis placed on atmosphere building that helps to create a differing sense of place each and every time. There is certainly an anchor point within Techno but to distill her music down to one genre would do her incredible sound a disservice, with a hefty amount of other elements placed within the progressions that help to maintain a healthy level of intriguing from one production to the next. The manner in which tracks unravel is simply astonishing, with Buchanan showing a high level of dexterity when it comes to utilising the hardware but also having the vision to manipulate the wavelengths into creating a compelling series of audial narratives that really do sing from the roof tops. It almost feels like the contents of the tracks are being pulled apart and bought back together again, Buchanan not afraid to pushing the elements to their absolute limits as the momentum continues to march onwards. As such, the possibilities within her music seem endless, a spectrum of designed sounds that entice the mind into many a mental meander, pulsating along the outer edges of reality and into a world that feels invigorating, ultra fresh and intoxicating, a sensory overload that draws so much power from so many corners and funnels it into the centres of our minds. Both of her previous releases have showcased these notions to the absolute utmost, and arrived in the form of 2016s 'Sunk' and 2018s 'Highly Emotional', both of which have individual and collective merits that both pointed to a bright, bright future indeed. 'Sunk' features four cuts, of which three are 7 minutes plus of melodic Techno heaven, made all the more amazing when you realise it was made on just one drum machine and synthesiser, with the undulating and ever shifting melodic presence hinting at exciting things to come. 'Highly Emotional' built upon the vibrations crafted in her debut, trimming the song lengths to provide more bitesize snippets, but the beauty with Buchanan's work is that every single bit of space is filled up with something meaningful and exciting, with the tunes found here flowing from softly spoken ambient spaces through to energetic slices of dynamism which get the blood flowing all over. If you fancy going back even further, be sure to check out her work under the Video Ezy name, a joint project alongside Del Lumanta, or the project UTI which was formed with Maya Kjellstrand, both of which focus on differing sides of the electronic music spectrum and provide a nice basis for the music that she would go on to create in her solo career. In all, Buchanan occupies the middling space that persists between multiple spheres of influence, a space that touches upon so many differing styles and sounds as a means of providing the music with its own sense of elastic identity. Her ability to blend rhythm with melody is impressive and inspiring, not just in the level of eclecticism that flourishes within her tracks but the overallness in the experience that is conveyed through her records. We really do traverse the plains on a journey to far reaching places that contain so much wonderment for us to sink our teeth into, and always feeling like something new is going to be added into the mix means we feel constantly refreshed and invigorated listening to her music. If you haven't had the chance to check out her previous works, we highly recommend you do so.

And now we arrive at her latest offering, 'Restless Abandonment', which arrives via one of our favourite imprints, Heavy Machinery Records. In true Buchanan fashion, the immediacy of the record is revealed beautifully over the 9 tracks, in that the narrative shifts perspective constantly to provide an enriching experience that showcases her ability to make melodically and rhythmically excellent tunes. The faster tunes hit particularly hard, which make the transitions into the softer and sombre tracks such a joy to engage with, and its this journey that takes the listener to some profound sonic environments. The style is all encompassing, taking the vibrations from hazy IDM tinged rollers through to glitchy techno rollers, and passing through via some impressive and animated ambient environments, it all pulls together expertly with flair, imagination and inventiveness. And as experiences go, its hard to match it for its pulsating undertones and meaningful forward thinkingness, and on that note lets dive right into this excellent slice of music.....

Up first comes 'Skiddiks', and this one begins with rhythmic and melodic wavelengths to get things going. The flute like arpeggios help to set the pulse, and before long the kicks slide into view to help provide the rhythmic framework, and this is when sparks well and truly begin to fly as the melodic elements start to swirl higher and higher into the atmosphere. The environment that is crafted is infectious, so much so that the listener is glued to the progression, which in itself becomes even more captivating as time passes by, with all manner of sequences wrapping themselves around one another. The intricacies are delicate to the touch, providing the listener with a hefty dosages of goodness to get their mind wrapped around, and the way that Buchanan manipulates and controls the sequences is expertly pulled off, as if the features are rebounding off the walls and sliding their way around the room. The track continues to delve through its many inner layers, before slowing down towards the end to provide the ultimate in satisfactory endings, and that is what we would call an opener, superb stuff. Up next comes ‘Carrier Bag’, and this one takes the tempo down into the murky depths. Things kick off with the initial synth progression that eagerly overlays itself up above a slowly emerging drumming structure, and as time passes by further elements move into view to make the view even more complete. The additional melodic elements do wonders to add flavour and intrigue into the mix, and as we lap up all that this section has to offer things drop out to leave us alone with a gorgeous new lead line that weaves through the newly invigorated drumming pattern. The layers combine so effectively, grooving along to a fresh set of mechanisms and dynamics that make the song truly shine, with further excursions into new sections providing further spaces for us to be completely mesmerised by. The track remains content by this point to slowly meander onwards into the sun kissed metallic sky, worming its way across valleys and through along the many rivers, grooving its way into areas we only dream about. A track for the ages, this one. ‘Sloopy’ comes next, and this one begins with a deeply expressive drumming pattern to get things going. The hats and cymbals engage in a symphony like exchange on both sides of the pan, responding to the spaces left behind by the opposite side with such glee, with both lines of inquiry doing a great job at providing a platform for the chirpy key line to into view. The key sequence meanders along the top end of the track with real purpose, moving swiftly like the changes in wind direction, and after some swooping its time to ascend into the deep underbelly of rhythm. The kicks arrive hard and very fast, providing a pulse to a track that for a while had merely blended grace but now adds pure unapologetic force into the mix, and the mood couldn’t be more vibrant. The dips in energy only make the returns of the kicks even more impactful, and as a result we are left with a truly memorable audial experience indeed.

Up next comes ‘There, Together’, and this one begins in IDM leaning territories. The key sequence that quietly slinks into view carries a lot of texture and tone with it, as it rhythmically abounds from left to right across the pan, merging beautifully with the hats that come into view underneath with meaning and fever. The wavelengths all align at certain points before falling away, only to come right back up for air a few minutes later, and just before the 2 minute mark we feel the track’s transformative powers really come into the spotlight. Everything shifts in terms of volume and tone, switching things right on their heads as quiet pulsating key lines leap through the imagined membranes, calling out to us to jump through and join them in this blissed out paradise. Gorgeous stuff once again. ‘Shifter’ comes into view next, and this one continues on with the heavenly melodies. The arpeggio remains as always so much more than that, arriving to us in layers as if one is bouncing off the other, merging and dissipating into the other layers that persist in and around the undercurrents. The melodies take a wee break around the 1:20 mark, but this is only to draw breath as the notes come sliding back into view soon after, with the drums now taking the back seat ever so slightly. But as always there’s another shift within the balance, and this occurs as a new sequence begins to take hold, showcasing to us the maximums in possibility that can be achieved by exploring elemental features to their utmost. The track continues to merge and unravel itself with such ease, capturing a sense of tangibleness alongside a hefty dosage of the vividly imagined, as our minds get placed somewhere between the two, and its utterly excellent. ‘Interlude’ comes on next, and this one begins with a distant arpeggio that slowly grows in scale and volume as time passes by. The key work is emotive and complex, chiming along to our heartstrings as it grows in scale, filling out the space in from of us as everything just intensifies, but in the most mellow way possible. We feel so blessed to be in the presence of such a special melody, one that entices as much as it dazzles in its undulating beauty, with all these features doing much to free the mind and enrich the soul. Awesome stuff.

‘Is it Real’ comes next, and this one features similar feels to the previous cut, save for the switch in tempo. The keys are full, leaving much less space on the table, but this allows the lead key line up top to really tap into the undercurrent being explored, with the two lines intermingling with one another exceptionally as time passes by, with glittering lights and far away stars drawing themselves closer to the light source. The track is able to speak so much with just two layers, as we begin to imprint ourselves into the notes and simply drift from our seats and into the outer reaches, dreaming about far away places and new things to explore. Gorgeous, simply gorgeous.

Next comes ‘Rinse’, and this one adds some final turbo fuel into the mix before the album’s final track. The arpeggios as always are full of character and vibrancy, shifting through the gears expertly as the drums lightly groove away underneath, eager to keep track but also provide a contrast to the melodic blend being presented. As ever with Buchanan’s work, there is plenty of emphasis placed on the ways in which the synths can be pushed, pulled and condensed into new images and spaces, their form drifting from place to place and back again. This occurs frequently within this track, as the lead melodies are pulled apart and reconstructed, which provides the listener with multiple scales and scapes to sink their teeth into, and as a journey its unrivalled in regards to its intuitiveness. To wrap things up, we have ‘Whim’, and after such a hypnotic journey through all kinds of melodies, shapes and rhythms, It seems fitting to end the experience on a quiet, reflective note. The rising chord progression shifts in regards to tone, keeping its bottom ends very much in the zone as it looks to continually add elements up top that throw intrigue into the mix, providing the listener with plenty to sink their mind into. The dream doesn’t stop here, as around the half way mark the track shallows itself before exuding itself outwards into the world, providing us with one final vibe to get deeply involved within before everything shifts away into the boundless void. This album deconstructs for fun, but always manages to keep us informed and in the loop about whats going to come next, and that really does mean something when you finish up. Truly extraordinary, illuminating, and above all else, inspiring, there’s an enormity to celebrate on this record.

Conceiving music that seemingly concerns itself with all manner of scales, intricacies and contexts takes dedication, understanding of the potentials of instruments and of course, an inspiring level of creativity and passion, and when these three elements combine, you are in for a treat. Nina Buchanan has been merging these together for quite some time now, with her version of melodic and hypnotic electronic music wowing listeners the world over with its enriching progressions and endearing emotiveness. This new effort of hers is no different, with each track applying itself to the masterwork with a differing sense of vibrancy and texture, with quietly illuminating tracks sitting alongside deeply expressive up tempo numbers that feed the soul with all kinds of rhythms. The intensity shifts through clever usage of density, with transitions crafted brilliantly amongst a sea of inspired arpeggios, tones and fluid note movements. Grooving from one track to the other we see the glue that binds the collection together, and within the quieter moments we are provided time to step back and experience it for what it really is - truly mesmerising. A record we cannot recommend enough.

Support the troops: https://ninabuchananmusic.bandcamp.com/album/restless-abandon

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