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Priori - On A Nimbus (NAFF Recordings, 2019)

Drift away with this artistic, compelling future bound masterpiece.

Music certainly is art, but it comes in many forms. Many blend sounds and structures together that generates and evokes something in the listener, to what extent is determined by how much the listener looks to become emotionally (and sometimes physically) attached to it. Electronic music, as discussed in previous pieces, spins a loose narrative that allows listeners to weave their own feel, their own voice. Those that sing to us, we enjoy the most, connect to and nurture intently, never loosing our interest in it. That is what great electronic music is, to this writer, a place to loose ourselves in the moment and the movement, whatever pulse, signature or chord might place itself at our door.

NAFF Recordings have woven their narrative in their releases so beautifully since their inception. The label heads, Priori and Ex-Terrestrial, know a thing or two about delving deep into the abyss of sounds and visions, bringing up flavours that delight through their rhythmic and musical energies. The label has released some astounding music into the world, from Ex's pure and heartfelt dance tinged 2018 release 'Portal Vision' (check '2DS' for your listening pleasure); through Housemates' heart rendering 'Soul Value', to arguably 2018's finest album, Perishing Thirst's 'Pilgrims of the Rinde'. All these records have produced moments to cherish, atmospheres to dive into it, audio pleasures to indulge in time and time again. All these seems to lead towards this, Priori's debut LP, 'On A Nimbus'. Like a soft waterfall that keeps churning out the goods, this album knows no bounds, and would we expect anything less from the head of a label that is truly pushing the contemporary boundaries of what heartfelt dance music is currently? lets take a listen.

To kick things off, we have '2see'. Greeted by a series of space age, from the skies sorts of sounds, the scene is set. The synths come in, a beautiful arpeggio that grows and grows, with high pads coming in behind. It really sets the tone for what is to come next, a real swirler. Up next we have 'Creative Lizard', that gets things all going. A fast as hell kick lays the base for acid lines and toms to join in, a proper characteristic of the futuristic vibe the label is exploring just now. The tune moves along at a frantic pace, but the elements are clean, carefully placed and appreciated, giving this song such a rich body and depth. Around the 3 minute mark, we are greeted with a superb transition, as the swirling feel of the first half is moved away to be replaced by chiming realness. Spread out, this is the kinda progressive nature missing from a lot of dance music right now. Done right, it can conjure up feelings of being deep in the mix, lost in the spectrum of time and space. 'Dreams of a Digital Sublime' comes in next, and we're in this time capsule. The 90s reimagined, but in all the good ways. The delicately placed pads work in such harmony with the drums, the whole song playing out like an orchestra of electronica, composed masterfully, to bring us to a truly brilliant moment. The drums grow in stature, into something deeper and faster, a fantastic element just got better. 'Tech Ne' comes next, and it just keeps going. Solid and hazy chords are greeted with beats that jump right from your eyes to your nose, and back again. Like a heartbeat, this is tech 'no' with a real soul to it, drifting and placing itself right up there.

'Critter' comes next, and takes us all on yet another sonic turn for the better. Chords that feel like they were dipped in cement then told to dance, dub techno feels are evoked so very well here. The lack of emotive chords is made up for in the sheer bending of the pads will, before a delayed reverb chord joins in for good measure to lighten the mood. Rich sonicness meets an willingness to challenge us, with both in such good spirits on this one. 'On a Nimbus' comes next. Another one of those tracks that builds itself up so brilliantly, only for Priori to throw in some spanners into the works. An emotive heartfelt series of chords greets us here, and for a long time its just a scene of serene beauty. Before twisted and chopped up jungle riddims greet us, and oh do they just GO FOR IT. Of all the moments on this record (and trust me, there are plenty of those), this one feels the most rewarding. To build up for so long, to bring that in, is just genius. '6thematic' is up next, and is yet another sonic environment for us to get real close to. Jumping around like its nobodies business, the tune grows in character to display its true colours. The drums up the ante, as chiming techno flavours groove on top, with a real weird depth to the track. Floating along, taking that feel and just rolling with it. A real pearl, maybe the album's unsung hero.

Next up, we have 'Afterburn'. Slow, slow slow pads greet us on this one, with a snappy drum line snaking around our heels. The chords sway softly, with audio elements indicating the start of something special. The pads dip down from time to time, going down for air before their big moment. The drums ever growing in presence, sensing their moment is soon, very soon. Sirens calls come into play, as the kicks intensify, growing in stature, in confidence. It just then all kicks off so immaculately, heavens gates flood open and the drums take full force. The calls increase, harrowing in their sound but calm enough to fall back. A trip of the highest order, the undercurrents push and bend with time and space, chiming lines coming in over the top to get things really going. '4see' comes next, and is the most straight up tune on the record. Chugging in immediately, this one just chirps along with such meaning and persistence, it demands your attention, never letting up in its quest to get you moving hard. Getting muchos DJ Central vibes off of this one. Mega shit. 'Eh-Poh-Ne' brings us way back down again. A slow burner this one, that is pleasantly doing its thing, just happy to remain in its blissed out plane of existence. Priori certainly does get the balance right on this record, between the tunes that pull at the feet but also at the mind. However what threads them together is the acknowledgement of another side to a song, his ability to blend something out of a pre existing vibe is something to marvel at. To finish up, we have 'Ani Ma'. One final dance! oh jesus this album is excellent. Just when you thought the down tempo part had come to stay, this tune throws it all out the window. Possibly the most interesting beat on the record, and the simplest, but arguably the most effective, and to the point. Priori just seems to mess around here, fucking about with the keys like there's no tomorrow, leaving us with one final vibe to leave us feeling completely full and happy with an album that will continue to reward for years and decades to come.

When it comes to records blending it all, conjuring up moments of magic, this album has it all. Moments that leave you a bit taken aback by his persistence to make every instrument work; to create as full and as rich an experience as possible; and to make the listener feel in all kinds of ways. Priori has created a piece of magic here, something that resonates to all. Album of the year? Maybe. Probably.

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