Nat Berhanu – Incredulous
The United Kingdom and continental Europe are traditional hotbeds for electronic music and Nat Berhanu stands poised to take a deserved position among the modern vanguards in the style. His monumental release Incredulous is an eighteen song release that reveals him as one of the more diverse performers in this area we’ve heard in quite some time. There are a number of gee-whiz moments during these songs, but Berhanu’s penchant for propping his compositions up with solid structure and strong melodies helps him stand even further apart from his peers. This is a performer with, as the saying goes, music in their soul – it has been an abiding force in his life since before his teen years and his skills as a multi-instrumentalist undoubtedly influence everything he touches. Their effect on Incredulous is to make this a more ambitious, deeper effort than what many of his contemporaries could hope to accomplish.
The breadth of his skill and ambition isn’t readily apparent. Berhanu has a strong artistic sensibility, but it isn’t a sensibility eschewing his role as an entertainer. Instead, songs like the opener “Party House II” reveals that he’s every bit as capable of crafting physically galvanizing songs with sharp construction and a sure sense of what his target audience enjoys. The first real evidence of a wider consciousness at work behind these compositions comes with the track “At the Summit Jaml”. The song’s meditative opening is soon joined by flashes of various synthesizers. His skills at creating memorable melodies finds a home alongside another of his key strengths – the ability to invoke fresh atmospherics that have a recognizable sound, but also sound quite individualistic within the confines of this genre. “Beauty of the Sky” further develops this approach by using synth lines that almost sound like guitars and a churning rhythm running underneath that generates real sparks from the outset. The mid way point of the track finds him developing the central motif even further with punchy melodic lines that hook into the listener’s consciousness.
“Break Out” has a relentless vibe from the first thanks to its insistent percussion and the introduction of synth sounds only tempers it some. When the track further opens up, it doesn’t do so in a grandiose way – instead, Berhanu keeps things streamlined and running along a narrow track for maximum effect. “Rendezvous-Soul” has a more progressive edge than many of the other songs on Incredulous but sounds perfectly in keeping with what has come before. The contrasting synthesizer lines have their own unique flavor while still seamlessly entwining with each other. The slightly ethereal qualities of the performance contribute to it being one of the more memorable outings on this release. It’s quite the opposite with the song “Stupification”, a track with a number of brash flourishes and a bold attack that never relents. There’s an endless amount of variety on Incredulous and Nat Berhanu pulls it off with a great balance of accessibility and sophistication. It makes for one of the most impressive electronic music experiences in recent memory.
9 out of 10 stars