Leeds lad and Warp veteran George Evelyn is possibly best known for the sumptuous Balearic favorite “Nights Interlude”/”Les Nuits.” This well-loved cosmic jam began as the Quincy Jones-sampling opener to his 1991 debut A Word of Science and, rerecorded and reworked, then developed over the next two albums into a chill-compilation regular and a hardy perennial of the discerning beach-bar DJ’s set. The tune’s evolution neatly encapsulates Evelyn’s own musical journey from bedroom scratch-and-sampler to fêted trip hop DJ to — with collaborator since 1995 Robin Taylor-Firth — maestro of his own live band, and beyond.
Nightmares On Wax have long outlasted the trip-hop boom and with contemporaries like the Herbaliser, Quantic and DJ Food now sit at the intersection of funk, electronics, jazz and the bass-driven values of the sound system. For this eighth album they’re in an even more reflective mood than usual. Recorded in Ibiza — Evelyn’s new home — the record stays admirably true to its title with intimations of early morning sun, gentle waves on secluded beaches, good company, the odd herbal pick-me-up and general zoned-outness.
But it’s also hugely varied. While there’s a pleasingly ramshackle funk to tracks like “Eye (Can’t See)” and “Be, I Do” which summon up Evelyn’s old rough-and-ready sampling days, the more urgent “Tapestry” has the pace of house music and the drama of Lalo Schifrin or David Axelrod. One highlight is the elastic “Now is the Time,” which borrows an infectious low-end skank from Evelyn’s days as a teenage rude boy to connect Ibiza to urban Britain. Another is the following track, “Give Thx,” where testifying soul is refracted through NoW’s drum-machine-plus-real-instruments set-up. Overall it’s a thoroughly gorgeous antidote to conscious thought.