As I slipped on my snug and heavy headphones and started listening to Fake Tears’ Nightshifting, I felt as though I was being washed away in a neon stream. The walls fell away as the room melted beneath me, and I found myself drifting among pink clouds spattered with the setting sun’s glow. The heavens surged inward as the ground leapt skyward, crushing all of reality into a single point of infinite time and space, and in the blink of an eye, trillions of people burst into reality, lived rewarding and fulfilling lives, and were returned to the earth, all inside this point of indescribable smallness. Reality began expanding, rippling gently back to its original size, and all of this strangeness was merely a twinkle in the eye of a being far more powerful than mere mortal men.
I’m guessing that, after reading that first paragraph, you’re wondering what kind of drugs I’ve been taking. Well, aside from those prescribed, I haven’t taken any. But Fake Tears’ Nightshifting is a fabulously weird album, and it deserves a fabulously weird review. That first paragraph was me trying to explain how it felt to listen to this album. It’s strange and trippy music that excited, enticed, and confused me. Nightshifting is an extremely strange album, even among electronic music junkies. But fans of weird electronic music will be more than satisfied, as Nightshifting exhibits masterful musical composition across all tracks, with excellent beats and beautiful harmonies.
The name of the game here is “synthesizers.” You want ‘em? Well, they’ve got ‘em. To my ears, almost none of Nightshifting features anything traditionally acoustic, and it’s possible that the allegedly acoustic sounds I heard were only sampled audio. Even the vocals have a tastefully strong amount of reverb, helping them blend with the ethereal aural texture created by the assemblage of synthesizers. Oftentimes, the vocals function similar to the synthesizers, as they build a kind of “sonic curtain” of tones and harmonies. The lyrics will contain words that can be stretched out, such as elongating the first syllable of the word “asking” in the track “14 Storeys.” As the vocalists hold out notes, their voices fuse with the electronic sounds around them, and do a great job of thickening up that sonic stew.
Of course, the synths hold up just fine without the vocals. Plenty of the songs have extended portions without vocals, but they still manage to keep the synthesizer stuff interesting. In the song “Second Wind,” for instance, the synthesizer parts build powerful harmonies while still being melodically active by having one synth play melody, while a second plays a counter melody, and a third plays harmonizing notes beneath the other synths as the melodies flow along. The result is beefy harmony that still has prominent and powerful melody, with equally interesting melodic components beneath as part of the song’s overarching soundscape.
But don’t start thinking that Nightshifting is all aural textures with no rhythm. The song “Night Box” comes out swinging with a prominent drum rhythm under a synthesizer pattern. It doesn’t have the pounding nature of EDM, but instead makes me think of retro techno and electronic music. It’s a steady beat with good samples that doesn’t hog the limelight but adds to the vocals and synthesizer parts that shape the tonal aspects of “Night Box.”
Unfortunately, Nightshifting isn’t going to saunter by me without at least one bit of negative criticism. Nightshifting has one major flaw that could hurt its appeal: it’s a weird album. And not just your garden variety weirdness, this is a prohibitively bizarre album. You hear all the synthesizers and female vocalists and your mind gets geared up for some pounding electro-pop, but by the second track, “Hearts Break Loud,” it becomes clear that what you’re really listening to is somber, artistic, and a true niche product. Steer clear, acoustic guitar fanatics! These aren’t the droids you’re looking for
Despite Nightshifting’s limited potential audience due to its strangeness, this is still an album that electronic music fans should at least try. The level of musicality on display is truly incredible, and many of the songs were beautiful enough to send shivers down my spine, back up my spine, and partway through my rib cage. The thick synthesizer and vocal harmonies are the perfect gravy for the drum and rhythm parts’ mashed potatoes. If you like electronic music, grab your best headphones, and listen to Nightshifting. Fake Tears have created a truly incredible album, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice to not give it a shot.
*Image from Verbicide Magazine