We seek the new because of the numbness. If you listen to enough music, you’re familiar with the feeling. Sounds get recycled so often that they can seem like geometric configurations organized via Wav files. Trends get time-stamped faster than a triplicate trap hi-hat.
The most rare records emerge outside of any clearly delineated orbit. They’re solitary visions that supply their own rhythm and arsenal. Music that reverberates through heart, brain, and spine. This is Nosaj Thing’s third album, Fated.
“I just tried to escape really, and escape even what’s going on in the music world,” says Nosaj Thing, the LA producer born Jason Chung. “It just felt so suffocating in a way. I just wanted to do my own thing.”
It’s been six years since Nosaj Thing emerged among the vanguard of Low End Theory-affiliated producers. His debut Drift created 31st century tones and chromatic textures so sleek that they inspired innumerable Soundcloud imitators.
None could match its moody iridescence, faded sadness and funky swing. Bach collided with Boards of Canada. Spaceships came equipped with rear view mirrors and a booming system bumping G-Funk and warped soul. Pitchfork called it “gorgeously haunted.” Resident Advisor said it “exists in its own dimension and feeds off its own exhaust: full of alien choirs, conquered computers, and refracting stained-glass light.”
Fated exists in this same alternate dimension, but further out. If comparisons previously existed with other artists within the LA beat scene, Nosaj has rendered them baseless. His second album on Innovative Leisure (after 2013’s Home) seeks celestial escape through streamlining.
“The last record took out so much of me. I just wanted to go back to simplifying and overthinking so much. It was a battle,” Nosaj says. “The soul of a song, the essence of a song—whatever you want to call it—should be simple.”
By stripping away all but what’s really necessary, the sounds harness an unusual directness. Guest appearances are rare, save for vocals from Whoarei on “Don’t Mind Me,” and Chicago rap phenomenon, Chance the Rapper. The latter gravely spits on “Cold Stares,” invoking terminal fevers, empty beds, devil’s whispers, and insomniac fears.
If comparisons crop up, Fated has most in common with records like Burial’s Untrue or Dilla’s Donuts. Requiems that canvass the shadowy hinterlands between life and death, darkness and light, loneliness and love. Eternal themes re-imagined in ingenious fashion.
“The album name came from all these coincidences that just kept on happening to me,” Nosaj says. “Specific interaction with specific people in unexpected places. A perpetual feeling of déjà vu.”
It’s foundation rests on that intangible thing that some call fate or primordial feeling. Numbness receding, old emotions flooding back, un-tampered visions. Fated is what you can’t explain, so it’s best to just listen.