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Nightmares On Wax

A group turned solo outlet for founding member George Evelyn, Nightmares on Wax were one of the brightest spots on the post-rave British techno map before they developed into one of the land’s premier and longest-running sources of downtempo electronica rooted in dub reggae and hip-hop. NoW’s debut album, A Word of Science (1991), was a crucial bridge between the competing influences of New York house and electro, Detroit techno and soul, London rave and acid, and the burgeoning eclecticism of the years to come. Producer and DJ Evelyn has steered the Warp act through three decades of activity, adding to the lengthy NoW discography with touchstones Smokers Delight (1995) and Carboot Soul (1999), followed by an increasingly organic series of statements that includes In a Space Outta Sound (2006), Feelin’ Good (2013), and the liberation-oriented Shout Out! To Freedom… (2021).

Formed in the late ’80s in West Yorkshire as an extension of Evelyn and company’s b-boy crew the Soul City Rockers, NoW’s first singles, “Dextrous” and “Aftermath,” were both highly regarded, and the latter shot into the U.K. pop singles Top 40. The subsequent album laid a good deal of the groundwork for the downtempo experimental hip-hop/electro-funk worked over by Mike Paradinas, Luke Vibert, Spacer, and others, and earned the group a secure spot among techno’s select crew of next-step innovators.

The group nonetheless disbanded following Science’s release, with early contributor Kevin Harper leaving to pursue a DJ career and Evelyn turning out a smattering of house tracks on Warp’s Nucleus subsidiary before settling into bedroom woodshed mode, often joined by Robin Taylor-Firth. Following a four-year hiatus, Evelyn resurfaced with a track on the Mo’ Wax Headz compilation and, soon after, Smokers Delight, basically an instrumental hip-hop album with a distinctively British eclecticism. Still involved with the same sorts of genre-spanning sampler-and-sequencer experiments, Smokers Delight was also less obvious, suited more to repeat listenings than previous material. The same was also true for 1999’s Carboot Soul, Evelyn’s first album as part of a deal with American indie label Matador for domestic distribution. In 2000, NoW produced the first new track by De La Soul in several years, included on an EP — Sound of N.O.W — featuring the rap pioneers. Following on its heels was a volume in the Studio !K7 mix series DJ-Kicks.

Two years later, Evelyn delivered his fourth LP, Mind Elevation. A bigger gap preceded the release of his next proper LP for Warp, but In a Space Outta Sound finally appeared in 2006, while 2008’s Thought So… and the unmixed selector compilation Coming Home followed closely behind. Evelyn continued to work as a downtempo DJ, collaborated with Jazzanova arranger Sebastian Studnitzky, and released Feelin’ Good, another eclectic set of productions, in 2013. The following year brought a retrospective set, N.O.W. Is the Time, to celebrate 25 years of activity. Morgan Geist, Optimo’s JD Twitch, and Ashley Beedle, among others, granted remixes. Evelyn issued the Ground Floor EP, featuring Andrew Ashong, Wolfgang Haffner, and Acid Mondays, in 2016. The next year, he released the first in a batch of singles that preceded the early-2018 set Shape the Future. After a ten-year streak of near constant touring, Evelyn was forced to stop by the COVID-19 pandemic; the pause in his schedule caused him to reflect on freedom, an idea that he explored on his ninth full-length album, 2021’s Shout Out! To Freedom.

Nightmares On Wax