'Neon Hurts My Eyes' is out now, buy it from iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/neon-hurts-my-eyes/id591390928 or direct from us http://shop.etchshop.co.uk/releases/TRUCD259/neon-hurts-my-eyes/679
‘Neon Hurts My Eyes’ is Natural Self’s fourth album and his third on Tru Thoughts. Three years in the making, the LP unveils a striking departure for the producer and DJ as he takes on the role of singer-songwriter fully for the first time. For an upfront taste of this new sound, the track “Red Wire Blue Wire” was released as a free download; showcasing the imaginative structures, dynamic beats and impishly offbeat vocals to be found on the album, it premiered with KCRW radio play, a Clash feature and widespread praise from the media and music fans.
The first official single, “Machine” / “The Valleys”, out 18th February, is gaining immense tastemaker support including Eddy Temple-Morris (XFM), The Line Of Best Fit, and official Playlisting on French national radios Nova and France Inter.
While shades of his early hip hop, funk and tropical influences remain, fans of the distinctive style coined on Natural Self’s last two albums – 2008’s ‘The Art Of Vibration’ and 2009’s ‘My Heart Beats Like A Drum’ - will be forgiven a double take on hearing the new sounds pouring out of him. His inventive sonic landscape, a highly poised confection of beats, bleeps and noises drawn from a vast textural palette, is now more redolent of Radiohead and the Beta Band; while a tight, melodic pop-but-not-pop sensibility aligns the songs with Little Dragon or James Blake. Having previously enlisted guest singers including Andreya Triana for main vocals, here Natural Self lays himself bare. Immersive and synth-heavy, this is electronic music with warmth and heart, a sense of being at once futuristic and nostalgic as it explores themes of technology, the environment, the passing of time and our place in the world.
Since his last LP, Nathaniel Pearn – the man behind the moniker – has moved to London from the comfort zone of Brighton, and spent time touring the US; this shake-up has brought out new influences, a fresh perspective, a sense of urgency and the confidence, he says, “to do something different, something more cohesive - I wanted to push myself more. As much as I love production itself, I needed to do something live - where the music would come out of me.”
Alongside some guest musicians (including guitar from Ben Lamdin, aka Nostalgia 77) key to the sound of ‘Neon Hurts My Eyes’ was a Nord Lead synth, with which Pearn describes having “a love-hate relationship…as it very often doesn’t do what I want it to do”. Recognising the interesting dynamic this posed, however, he played on the tension between the Nord’s heavy sound and the melodic harmonic persuasions of his songs, resulting in a unique, emotionally charged atmosphere, veiled with intrigue where you might find melodrama in a less safe pair of hands.
From the ordered chaos of opener, “Metropolis”, the listener is transported; this instrumental track is punctuated by vocalised ‘Oohs’ as if to parody the feeling of riding the wave of urban life in a huge modern city. “Red Wire Blue Wire” builds intensely with a crackle and slap, before the vocals drop in - lyrics about a time machine introducing the quirky flavour that frequently infuses the wistful themes here. Next up is the driving melody of “Machine”, which cocks an eyebrow at the cult of uniform cool. “Take It Back” contemplates large-scale dramatic humanitarian situations, but feather-light harmonies leaven the tone. Two-minute beat jam “Pulsar” brings back a playful stomp; the organic, live sound of “An Invisible Light” is bathed in reverb, synth flourishes interacting with a loping bassline. An arresting hook announces “In A World”, and the hiss and crackle of an old Roland Space Echo adds to a remote, orbital feel; “Mirror To The Sky” boasts layered violin and cello arranged by revered jazz musician Rory Simmons; and the heavenly floating sensation of “Kingdom” was inspired by the view from a plane. “O Superman” is a song that Pearn found affecting when he heard the Laurie Anderson original on the radio in childhood, and whose themes still resonate; he fashioned his pulsating, stripped back cover version entirely from samples of his own vocals. “The Valleys”, originally by Electrelane, features the only guest vocals on the record, sung by Tanya Auclair and Milly Blue, alongside Pearn himself, and layered to recreate the choir sound; Natural Self brings a heavy groove to the song, having been thinking about covering it for years. “Paper Skyline” closes out the album with a widescreen, soundtrack air; the simple, sentimental melody and climactic strings offer a sense of resolution, of looking out into the sunset.