Remember when it seemed like everyone was incorporating footwork into their beats? While that storm might have died down a bit in 2012, it's produced some of the most inventive electronic music of the past few years. Emerging from behind the shadows of Machinedrum's infallible Room(s) comes Brighton producer and Planet Mu label mate Alan Myson. His previous work as Ital Tek has flitted between neon dubstep and glitch-hop, but last year's Gonga EP melded those fungal psychedelics with the manic jitters of footwork. Arriving a full year later, third album Nebula Dance sees him expanding the claustrophobic world of "Gonga" into full-bloom synth splendour.
Not to boil it down to rote note-sharing, but Nebula Dance has another unmistakable similarity with a label mate, namely the Vangelis-aping synth operas of Kuedo's Severant. Where Kuedo took hip-hop at its most guttural, and drenched it in shrieking synthesizer, here Myson coats footwork in a futuristic slick that's alien yet somehow reassuring. On a track like "Dusk Beat," the usually prodding needles of footwork are smoothed over, sliding off surfaces rather than hitting hard. "Steel Sky" and "Pixel Haze" are picturesque landscapes rattled by mini-earthquakes, with Myson's typically atmospheric steals of light squeezed between the claustrophobic drums.
As exciting as it is when Myson sounds like he's trying to hold his gaseous clouds together with a gauntlet of percussion, it's even more satisfying when he channels his energy into a finely focused stream. The previously released "Gonga" plays chicken with itself, intensity rising with every passing bar until it's about to burst from the pressure; then it makes a swipe back down to the regular levels and restarts its ascent all the more thirsty for blood. The drum programming is furious and nimble—you can't tell where exactly he's hitting you, but you can sure feel it. It's executed no better than on "Glokk," a glockenspiel-based track that sounds like the aural equivalent of one of those fantastically antiseptic, ultra-futurist white rooms with every sound encased in semi-opaque glass.
If there's one criticism to throw at Nebula Dance it's that it still stands in the shadow of its older brethren, borrowing heavily from the Planet Mu 2011 playbook; in particular, the weeping interlude "Discontinuum" is a dead ringer for Kuedo. At the same time, Myson handles these familiar tools like an expert, and his third album is easily the tightest record yet. Jumping from sound to sound, Ital Tek has covered a startling amount of ground in a short time. If he can stick to this up-tempo field that has proven so fertile, he's on track to be a trailblazer in the same vein of the pioneering artists he almost equals with Nebula Dance.