Border Community's always been kind of reticent and distant as a label, emphasizing quality control of its midnight bliss brand of electronica and off-kilt analogue techno. Still, over the last couple years you'd be excused if you imagined Holden and co. were about to shutter up the shop. As the label approaches its tenth anniversary, its releases have slowed from drip to mere trickle. Now, it seems like if we see one LP from the label we feel, well, relieved that there's still life amongst Holden and his longstanding crew.
So it's perhaps with a sense of occasion that we receive the third LP from one of the label's earliest wunderkinds, Norfolk's Nathan Fake. From seminal releases in BC's infancy like "Outhouse" and "The Sky Was Pink"—not to mention Holden's own epic pseudo trance remix of the latter—Fake's been at the heart of this close collective's heady, ultra melodic take on electronic music. It was an approach that looked fondly back to the British techno and ambient house of the early to mid-'90s, to space-getaway acts like the Orb and Orbital, just given a little psychedelic tweaking for modernity. Fake's 2005 debut, Drowning in a Sea of Love, stands with Luke Abbott's Holkham Drones as the label's high-water mark, LP-wise. Following a somewhat dispiriting second outing, which found Fake grating against his expertly crafted, song-oriented take on electronica for a more manic and sonically hectic assault, with Steam Days, Fake returns to the fuzzy melodies and subtle, static-laced gleam that marked not only much of his best early work but also his better remixes.
But it's also as though Fake's been studying the sunblind analogue workouts of longtime label mate Abbott, in terms of effect if not technique. There's the same unearthly buzz of heatstroke to the best stuff here, but of a happy, peaceful dehydrated fade—resembling the simmering pulsations and hazy textures trademarked on Holkham Drones. No longer does Fake hold any allegiance with the songcraft, for example, of pop-oriented artists of the mid-'00s like Ulrich Schnauss; these are burbling, rot-laced explorations of the sun, worn out from the edges but still humming against the horizon. "Rue," for example, a beatless reverie of sly neo-classical grandeur, its big-hall central melody draped over twitches of noise, while "Cascade Airways" bounces over one of the album's sturdier rhythms, but with flashes of melody so clearly indebted to one of Fake's biggest influences, Boards of Canada.
Lead single "Iceni Strings," meanwhile, takes its time in sifting its central motif up from sticky bubble gum synths; "Harnser" is harsher, more discordant, these textural spasms pattering beneath a cathedral-like melody that wouldn't be out of place on a Dominik Eulberg album. Perhaps the record's most subtly euphoric track from the surface despite its title, "Sad Vember" follows one of Fake's patented distant bell-chime melodies through a slow clatter and ringing electronics in a spell of pleasant, sleep-roughened grace. It's a welcome return to the distorted but seemingly effortless brand of hypnotism that's always marked Fake's best work. If Steam Days doesn't recapture the halcyon days of BC's youth, it's still a welcome reminder that, ten years in, Fake, Holden and co. are still as cagey as any label at crafting the psychedelic space-out.