It’s been four years since Nick Wilson, aka Mr. Beatnick, first really laid down his marker on the UK house scene with the effortless flow of the string-soaked “Synthetes”. “Formed In The Stance”, the former hip-hop producer’s first release of 2015, sees him return to Semtek’s Don’t Be Afraid label to deliver what he has described as “his most floor-focussed work to date”. Being all too aware of the deft ease with which he has moved from nu-jazz to hip-hop to house in the past, we delved into this one with no small amount of enthusiastic expectation.
Opener “Stutter” is quick to set out its stall, with an uncompromising kick and charged synth stabs that pulsate and straighten the driving techno beat. The track never loses this internal hip-shifting momentum but, as with all Mr. Beatnick productions, there’s much more to see here. A lead line that sounds almost like an electronic kalimba fires off in reconstructed arpeggios, underlain by rounded, melodic pads and spacey glitches. Its undeniable potency does not mean it takes itself too seriously, and the product is as fun as it is powerful.
Next up, “Jellyfish” opts for less brute force, instead framing its opening with crisp and accurate drum work. A trippy melody line lumbers into centre stage with tranquillised gait, its languid progress through these ethereal waters only punctuated by subaqeuous key rippling at the surface. The aesthetic is unworldly but full of adventure; as a listener you can’t help but get caught up in it.
The title track, “Formed In The Stance”, follows, setting off initially with patient, organic drums, before injecting the sort of suspenseful bubblings and echoes that just for a second recall the pre-drop inhalation of classic jungle. Instead, Beatnick heads in a totally different direction in taking a dive into the deep, with layered pads underscoring the delicate sample work and insatiable claps. It’s very carefully put together and its therapeutic power offers just reward for a patient listener.
Closer “Obsidian Morning” offers much more in the way of conventional harmonies in its offering to the dancefloor. Various synth lines from across the pitch register interplay with one another, as the track rises and falls in its melodic escalation. It builds with patience but with a clear destination in sight – perhaps the sort end-of-the-night hands-in-the-air moment to which the title alludes.
For a four track EP, there is a great deal of variety contained within this release. Far from being an attempt to provide something for everyone, it feels like the output of a genuinely exploratory producer with a lot to say in the studio. Impressively, there is a certain quintessential Beatnick style which manages to shine through in each of these disparate tracks. This is symptomatic of the EP’s evident maturity. Despite his relatively low profile over the years, this is surely confirmation that Mr. Beatnick can hold his own with the very best in the game.