Artist: Nick Nicely
Album: Sleep Safari
Label: Tapete Records
Release Date: 9.29.17
Arriving in 1982 to almost no fanfare, “Hilly Fields” was the product of the M.C. Escher-like mind of British psych-pop surrealist Nick Nicely. Rattling out metallic, drum-machine patterns in a fever dream of Sgt. Pepper’s-like whimsy, it was an alien presence at the time, introduced to the world by the famed label EMI. The cult that has grown up around the track, and Nicely himself, is still in awe.
Another intriguing creative detour in a career full of them, Sleep Safari is the airy, somnambulant counterpart to the colorful aural chemistry he produced for the Rave and Acid House scenes of the late ‘80s and ‘90s as Freefall, Psychotropic, Citizen Kaned and Airtight. A series of expansive, shape-shifting pools of electronica, chilly and grey, but almost antiseptically clean, Sleep Safari is a multi-layered, immersive listen, with the deep, watery “Rainmaker” and its clickety-clack beats imagining a spectral train rolling through the subconscious and the underwater cabaret of “Step Away” such an elegant fantasy. More of a haunted music box, “London South 2 (Grasscut Remix)” eventually becomes a dreamy Ferris wheel, while “Solar Wind” floats on in cosmic wonder, as Nicely reveals his utter fascination with dreams in imaginative lyrics that paint scenes of unexplainable mystery.
All the while, the soundscapes of Sleep Safari continuously transform and blossom into new scenery. Nicely is like a musical Christopher Nolan, and Sleep Safari is his “Inception,” although the hues and overall tone of the record rarely change. Cinematic in his approach, much like Moby, this artistic chameleon doesn’t seem particularly interested in dance music, although the brisk, but soft, techno pulse of “Souvenir” might beg to differ. All of it, including the eerie, fluttering “Ghostdream,” leaves its witnesses spellbound.